Call for proposals opens for race and ethnicity cluster hire

Earlier this summer, Chancellor Andrew D. Martin announced a comprehensive action plan to address racial equity at Washington University in St. Louis. Part of that plan included a Danforth Campus-wide cluster hire of 12 new faculty members who will focus on world-class research on race and ethnicity in our society.

The process of bringing them to campus is now underway, starting with a call for proposals from the Office of the Provost.

“This cluster hire is a crucial piece of the university’s commitment to addressing issues of racial justice and equity head-on,” said Beverly R. Wendland, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “We look forward to receiving and reviewing the proposals from the university’s schools and departments. We are especially excited to see the ideas and possibilities the cross-disciplinary engagement will yield.”

Proposals should demonstrate contemporary and/or social valence, connectivity, methodological supplementarity and distinction. While individual schools and departments are encouraged to submit proposals, collaborative submissions — including creative ways to connect different faculty and units — also are welcome. The selected proposals and their corresponding hires will explore and research race and ethnicity and their impact not only on campus, but throughout the community.

“This action step will help create deeper engagement and education for our students around the history and meaning of race and how best to address the structures and systems that are affected by it,” Martin said. “We already have an incredible group of faculty engaged in this vitally important research. With this cluster hire and other initiatives such as the newly launched Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity, we continue to demonstrate our pledge to further strengthen our focus on the intersections of race, justice and equity. We are a campus of innovators, and I’m excited to see what new fresh ideas these proposals bring forward.”

The proposal ideas, and the faculty positions that will be crafted to support them, are expected to bolster strategic priorities and could include areas of concentration including health equity, equitable policing, algorithmic bias, and race and representation.

Leaders anticipate the hires will have another enormous benefit: boosting the university’s ability to more effectively recruit and retain faculty of color, both now and into the future.

“Washington University in St. Louis is already growing distinguished for its commitment to research, teaching and broader engagement with race, ethnicity and equity,” said Geoff Ward, professor of African and African American studies in Arts & Sciences and co-chair of the provost-appointed Cluster Hire Review Committee. “My partner and I recently left another prominent research university to join the faculty here; and we were largely drawn by the opportunity to become part of this community of scholars engaging critically with race, and live and work in a city and region where there is not only need but growing willingness to grapple with deep-seated, durable racial inequality. These distinctions and opportunities will play an important role in recruitment and retention of new faculty, as well as those already here.

“I am confident that candidates will see that our institution and city have much to offer, and that they will be excited about being part of this major initiative to further realize the university’s commitment to make a difference in helping to forward the cause of racial and social justice in our community, our region and around the world.”

Vice Provost Adrienne Davis is joining Ward as co-chair for the first year of the cluster hire.

The deadline for schools and departments to submit preliminary proposals is Sept. 21; the committee will select semifinalists, who will submit full proposals by Oct. 5. For more information on the proposal process and criteria, visit the Office of the Provost’s website.

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