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Gándara Offers Recommendations to Improve Policy Engagement Among Faculty of Color

Gándara Faculty of Color Policy Study

by Jewel Caruso

Denisa Gándara (PhD 2016) recently co-authored a research study with four colleagues that investigated how colleges and universities can improve their support of engagement in public policy discourse among faculty of color. The article, “Supporting Public Policy Engagement for Tenure-Stream Faculty of Color,” was published in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning.

The coauthors asked a subset of faculty members, who indicated an interest in using their research to engage in policy, how their institutions could encourage involvement in policy discussions. The survey sample included 20 tenured and non-tenured faculty members at research universities across the United States. Each participant represented at least one racially or ethnically minoritized group.

The researchers found that some common structural barriers hinder policy engagement among faculty of color. These prevalent barriers are high institutional demands, dearth of rewards to recognize faculty’s policy work, limited resources and compensation, and absence of access to policy spaces. 

Participants expressed the need for a variety of institutional changes to support policy work. They reported that public sector engagement was not recognized as intellectual work comparable to research grants or peer-reviewed publications. Participants also mentioned feeling "hostility" in their work environments and being disproportionately overly burdened with service activities at the expense of policy work. Faculty of color, especially women and nonbinary faculty, indicated that they sought institutional support and protection when engaging with the public. One participant stated, “There is a great need for institutions to convey support and strengthen trust with faculty of color.” 

The respondents also noted shortages in available resources and an absence of training and preparation to help them be successful in policy spaces.

In distilling the information from the faculty, Gándara and coauthors identified four major recommendations for institutions: value and incentivize policy engagement, protect and support faculty, provide resources and compensation for policy engagement, and prepare and provide faculty of color with opportunities for policy engagement. 

Specifically, providing resources and compensation for policy engagement would be a step in the right direction as these faculty members reported that they already handle a disproportionate burden of uncompensated labor. Greater involvement in policy discussions and assured protection from institutions are needed as well. One institution hired several staff members with policy experience to enable faculty members to develop networks and connections which in turn helped to secure grant money.

The authors concluded that the recommendations will help institutions "magnify the impact of research and its potential to make a 'real world' difference, with greater representation, inclusion, and influence of people of color in policy making."

To view the full study, visit:

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