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Announcing the Faculty Pathways Initiative

Dear members of the Northwestern community,

I am pleased to announce one of my top priorities for Northwestern, the Faculty Pathways Initiative, a groundbreaking new multi-year program with the goal of accelerating faculty members’ development and advancement across their careers. The initiative, designed to drive even greater faculty excellence and to enhance diversity and promote inclusion, was developed with input from a broad group of faculty including the president of the Faculty Senate as well as leaders in the Office of the Provost, the Office for Research and The Graduate School (TGS). The Faculty Pathways Initiative will be led by Vice Provost for Academics Lindsay Chase-Lansdale.

Over the next five years, we will create a series of programs to engage and benefit prospective and current faculty members — from post-baccalaureates preparing to pursue doctoral degrees to graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, early-career faculty and recently tenured and/or promoted faculty members. Each program will incorporate structured mentoring of small cohorts across these career stages, with a goal of building a more connected community of scholars.

The initiative will begin this fall with the planning for a Society of Fellows, directed by professor of philosophy and former President of the Faculty Senate Baron Reed. The Society of Fellows will cultivate a multidisciplinary network of current junior and senior faculty at Northwestern. It will afford these exceptional faculty the opportunity and time to pursue new and exciting forms of research and creative work, with the additional goal of transforming pedagogy.

The Society of Fellows will help expand faculty members’ academic networks at Northwestern so that their scholarship can have a greater impact on the world, enhancing the University’s academic reputation while building a more robust and inclusive community of scholars across our campuses.

The Faculty Pathways Initiative also will launch a newly funded post-baccalaureate program for students historically underrepresented in mathematics and statistics. Of the 294 Ph.D.'s granted in mathematics and statistics in 2017 from peer institutions, only 16 went to underrepresented minorities. Northwestern’s Math Department has proposed a 12-month program designed to enhance participation of groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in mathematics, and the National Science Foundation has funded it, along with support from the Office of the Provost. This Northwestern-based post-baccalaureate program plans to expand into a national consortium where other universities will fund their recent graduates to participate in Northwestern’s program.

A $100,000 award from the Andrew F. Mellon Foundation will provide some of the initial funding for the launch and expansion of the Faculty Pathways’ programs, providing support in particular for the humanities and social sciences.

The overall initiative will take place in five phases over the next five academic years.

  • The ASCEND program, directed by professor and Associate Vice President for Research Celeste Watkins-Hayes, was piloted in academic year (AY) 2019 as a test phase with recently tenured or promoted faculty in the social sciences and humanities. It will be fully implemented in AY 2020 to include faculty from all disciplines as well as non-tenure-line senior faculty.
  • After a year of planning, the Society of Fellows program will launch in fall 2020, bringing together senior and early-career faculty in a collaborative and robustly interdisciplinary community.
  • The Post-Baccalaureate Math and Statistics Program for historically underrepresented students will begin in summer quarter 2020.
  • In 2022, we will develop a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowship for Diversity and Excellence.
  • In 2023, the plan is to expand TGS’s Presidential Fellows program for senior graduate students.
  • In 2024, we hope to expand the Pathways to the Professoriate program for a diverse population of post-baccalaureate students in numerous disciplines.
I am inspired and delighted to launch this exciting new initiative that reflects the creativity, input and vision of numerous members of our community. I thank all who helped make the Faculty Pathways Initiative a reality. I am confident the work we will do together over the next five years will promote a more diverse, inclusive and connected faculty — and spur even greater faculty excellence.