Note: The following article is not an official statement of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. The article is intended to engender discussion and consideration by local colleges but should not be seen as the endorsement of any position or practice by the ASCCC
The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges’ Faculty Empowerment and Leadership Academy (FELA) is a one-to-one statewide mentoring program designed to focus on the development of faculty from historically underrepresented groups in higher education who teach at California community colleges. The program was launched in 2021 during one of the most challenging and unprecedented times, in the midst of a global pandemic. Participation in this program is meaningful, invaluable, and potentially life-altering. It can impact the participants’ personal growth and development, and the program’s mission for mentoring diverse faculty can be exactly what faculty from historically underrepresented groups need to succeed in the California Community Colleges system.
FELA’s model is the only statewide faculty mentoring program for part-time and full-time faculty in historically marginalized communities, such as Black, Indigenous, people of color, and women (ASCCC, 2021). Only a few colleges in the California Community College system formally provide mentoring programs for part-time faculty employed in the system, as is noted in the ASCCC Mentorship Handbook (ASCCC, 2021). Three examples of well-developed programs are Peralta College’s Faculty Diversity Internship Program, Los Angeles Community College District’s Project Match, and Los Rios Community College District’s Faculty Diversity Internship Program. The existence of these mentoring programs is definitely a step in the right direction; however, participation and access to the resources and support are offered only to faculty who work in these particular institutions. FELA’s statewide mentoring model, on the other hand, has a broader reach. Being a part of a statewide mentoring program for both part-time and full-time faculty helps participants to build new relationships and to access new resources and support opportunities.
Participation in FELA Matters
College students in California represent some of the most diverse communities, with over 66% being from Hispanic, African-American, Asian, Native American, Filipino, and Pacific Islander ethnicities (California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, n.d.) . However, the community college system has not yet reached its goal of a truly diverse faculty body (Bean & Sharif-Idiris, 2022). In California’s 116 community colleges, individuals from underrepresented groups account for 36% of academic tenured and tenure-track faculty, while White faculty account for over 56% of the overall group statewide as of spring 2022 (California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, n,d.). Research shows that faculty diversity has benefits for all students; however, increasing faculty diversity may be particularly helpful in reducing academic disparities for students of color (Llamas, Nguyen, & Tran, 2021).
FELA’s mentoring program not only supports part-time and full-time faculty but also demonstrates the ASCCC’s recognition that mentorship is a key component to the success of new faculty, whether employed full-time or part-time, as well as those seeking employment in the California Community Colleges system. In addition, participation in FELA illustrates how a formalized mentoring model, established to support diverse faculty, can be tailored for any campus, as is highlighted in the Mentorship Handbook (ASCCC, 2021). Another benefit for tailoring FELA’s existing model as opposed to starting a brand new mentoring program is the ability to participate in a mentoring program that is accessible remotely and also offers a hybrid model for participating in training opportunities during the program.
FELA’s Mission: To Connect, To Empower, and To Guide
- To Connect: Connecting with potential mentors means reaching out to professors from multiple programs and being open to having mentors across disciplines. FELA's mentoring program connects mentees to full-time professors who provide not only group mentoring while participating in monthly meetings but also one-on-one mentoring focusing on personal growth and development.
- To Empower: Teaching during a pandemic resulted in multiple challenges, but it also emphasized that despite the challenges faculty also have to focus on self-care in order to better support their students and help them succeed. Participation in monthly virtual workshops helps mentees to be a part of a supporting network with co-mentees and faculty mentors. The virtual space becomes an opportunity for courageous conversations and ongoing check-ins.
- To Guide: Providing networking opportunities during the program with faculty and administrators helps to develop faculty as local and statewide leaders through personal and professional development. FELA fellows attend the ASCCC Faculty Leadership Institute, where they are awarded their FELA certificates and have the opportunity to meet in person fellow cohort members while also learning more about leadership, policy, and advocacy initiatives with the ASCCC.
Faculty Need to Mentor and Be Mentored
FELA’s mentorship program helps to build relationships among faculty across disciplines and throughout the community college system. FELA’s mission supports the need to formally establish mentoring programs to identify and mentor women and faculty of color who in turn are role models to students of color.
Community colleges are in a unique position to not only recruit, hire, and retain diverse faculty but also to provide faculty with a formalized pathway that can be adapted to the respective college in order to better support diverse faculty within the institution. The ASCCC FELA mentoring program is an excellent example of how an existing framework and core competencies can accomplish this goal for future generations of educators in the California Community Colleges system.
Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. (2021). Mentorship Handbook. https://www.asccc.org/sites/default/files/publications/asccc_mentorship_handbook_2021.pdf.
Bean, M.V, & Sharif-Idiris, M. (2022, April). Cluster hiring for faculty diversification. Rostrum. Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. https://www.asccc.org/content/cluster-hiring-faculty-diversification.
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. (n,d). Management Information Systems Data Mart. https://datamart.cccco.edu/datamart.aspx.
Llamas, J. D., Nguyen, K., & Tran, A. (2021). The case for greater faculty diversity: examining the educational impacts of student-faculty racial/ethnic match. Race Ethnicity and Education, 24:3, 375-391. DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2019.1679759.