College introduces C3 Mellon Fellows

Three fellows from University of California at Berkeley joined the College faculty this year as part of the Creating Connections Consortium (C3) program.

Alma Granado in the Latino/Latina studies concentration, Seulghee Lee ’07 in the English department and Reginold Royston in the Africana studies concentration will teach classes and conduct research at the College for two-year terms.

Middlebury, Connecticut College and Williams launched C3 with $4.7 million they received in the form of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in Dec. 2012. The primary goal of C3 is to expand existing efforts towards attracting more scholars from underrepresented backgrounds to teach at the three institutions, an objective that has been considerably challenging as a result of these schools’ relative geographic isolation and lack of recognition outside academia. As a result, elite research universities find recruiting accomplished, underrepresented students to their graduate programs from these liberal arts colleges difficult in spite of their tendencies to send a relatively high number of students into graduate studies.

Students at these institutions who may have considered pursuing a career in academia “lack exposure to and relationships with diverse faculty and thus do not envision their lives in the professoriate,” according to a release from the Consortium. To combat this issue, C3 organized a reciprocal relationship between the Liberal Arts Diversity Officers Consortium (LADO), an organization comprised of representatives from 20 liberal arts colleges working towards promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in liberal arts education, and two leading research universities, Columbia and Berkeley. The Center for Institutional and Social Change at Columbia Law School will also participate in this relationship. The Center’s work focuses on promoting “full participation” in higher education regardless of a student’s background.

C3 has employed several strategies towards achieving the goals presented to the Mellon Foundation. Each year, a LADO institution hosts the C3 Summit for Diversity and Inclusion, a conference that brings together juniors and seniors from LADO colleges and roughly 20 pre- or postdoctoral candidates from Columbia and Berkeley. Additionally, 12 scholars from underrepresented backgrounds who earned their doctorates at Berkeley or Columbia will be offered two-year postdoctoral fellowships at Connecticut College, Middlebury and Williams, where they will teach while conducting their own research.

The Consortium also funds research opportunities for underrepresented students from Connecticut College, Middlebury and Williams to work alongside faculty mentors at Berkeley. Columbia will launch a faculty exchange program amongst the LADO schools, and, through the Center for Institutional and Social Change at Columbia Law School, engage in reflective inquiry as to how diversity can be built into the normal practices and routines of institutions of higher learning, according to C3.

The College’s leadership in C3 began with the work of Mike Reed ’75, the former vice president for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity who now serves as vice president for Institutional Initiatives at Dickinson College.

“As a lead institution in LADO, Williams naturally became a lead in C3,” said Director of Special Academic Programs Molly Magavern.

“The idea behind C3 was to create a flow of students between liberal arts colleges and universities. Undergraduates would have a chance to experience a research university, and graduates of major research universities would have a chance to experience working at a liberal arts college. The hope is that the undergrads who’ve had the summer experience will choose to go to graduate school and pursue academic careers, and that some of the postdoc fellows will decide to teach at a liberal arts college.

“Williams has a longstanding commitment to addressing the shortage of faculty of color through other pipeline programs, such as the Bolin Fellowship, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and the Allison Davis Research Fellowship,” Magavern said. “Adding the post-doc piece was a logical next step.”

The postdoctoral fellows working at the College speak favorably of their experience with C3 thus far.

“I honestly don’t know of any other liberal arts college that would give me the flexibility to explore my research interests in this way,” Royston said. “I’m teaching a course next semester on the Internet in Africa. For a new professor at a new institution, that’s a lot of freedom. Not to mention, the technology resources at Sawyer are ideal for that. It’s a testament to the intimacy of the small college environment. You don’t necessarily have that same connection at Research 1 institutions like [Berkeley], where I finished my dissertation. Mellon and Williams have a history of great partnerships, supporting postdocs and new professors. The C3 program continues that project, with great mentorship and encounters between postdocs, undergrads and tenured faculty.

The vision for diversifying the academy and supporting new hires who feel embraced by their institutions is unique. I look forward to interacting with more students.”

“It’s a great program. The program and Williams have allowed me the opportunity to design and teach my own courses while providing me the resources and, most importantly, time to write and continue with my own research,” Granado said.

“The faculty, administration and the Latina/o Studies Program have been especially welcoming by inviting us C3 post-docs and other fellows to faculty meetings and requesting our input. I’ve met some great people here, partly due to the environment the College has fostered through working groups on the job market and teaching, and I’m slowly getting to know the student body. Furthermore, the liberal arts college experience is new to me, as I attended a large state university for my undergraduate degree and just finished my Ph.D. at [Berkeley].

“I look forward to learning more about Williams and its students during my time here. The working groups, the resources of the postdoc and the experience of teaching at a liberal arts college have put me in a great position to be competitive for academic jobs in the future.”

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