Skip to main content

Faculty Pathways Initiative

The Provost is launching a Faculty Pathways Initiative in the fall of 2019 to enhance faculty growth and development across all career stages from postbaccalaureate through senior faculty. This aspirational plan, developed with input from the Northwestern community, outlines a cohesive, systematic, and innovative approach to heightening faculty excellence, enhancing diversity, and promoting inclusion on all of our campuses. The Faculty Pathways Initiative introduces an overarching framework and multi-year plan for faculty cultivation and development with twin goals:

  1. Heighten Faculty Excellence: Promote even greater excellence among all faculty through every stage of their career at Northwestern
  2. Enhance Diversity & Promote Inclusion: Expand academic pathways for underrepresented individuals to diversify faculty at Northwestern and beyond

The initiative leverages existing strengths by expanding upon current practices, articulating shared objectives to align faculty development efforts, and developing new connected programming. Faculty Pathways will address these goals by improving the current landscape along four dimensions:

  1. Strengthen intellectual community and networks and provide a physical space to bring people together
  2. Expand the pool of underrepresented individuals at all levels along the continuum by cultivating faculty, defining pathways, and supporting individuals in navigating their career options
  3. Align and enhance existing programming to foster collaboration across disciplines and career stages and drive impact
  4. Develop a culture of inclusion and excellence all along the continuum

Faculty Pathways Overview

Over five phases, new programs will be launched and existing programming will be expanded to address the stated goals and dimensions. Implementation will be a dynamic and phased process over the next several years across all campuses.

There are many current programs at Northwestern that already promote faculty excellence across all of these dimensions at Northwestern, but they will benefit from greater connection to each other and across faculty career stages.

The Faculty Pathways program will bring together postbaccalaureate, graduate, post-doctoral, and faculty cohorts to build a robust culture of inclusion and excellence along the entire continuum of the Faculty Pathway. Each program will incorporate structured mentoring of small cohorts across these career stages, with the goal of building a a more connected community of scholars, as shown in this 2-part visual below:

 Pathways visual

Implementation Phases

Vice Provost for Academics Lindsay Chase-Lansdale is leading implementation efforts, which will begin in the fall of 2019 in partnership with faculty and administrators across schools and central units. The overall initiative will take place in five phases over the next five academic years.

Phase 1:


One of the most prevalent challenges that tenured faculty face is establishing and executing the post-tenure and promotion trajectory — the identification of strategic professional goals and the alignment of those priorities with faculty time, resources, and attention. Mid-career faculty have distinct challenges and research shows that unhappiness is highest at this stage because there is a tendency for their accomplishments to be overlooked. ASCEND seeks to address these challenges by providing support for mid-career faculty and fostering intellectual growth by offering one-on-one coaching with an executive academic coach, workshops, and peer mentoring. 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.

Phase 2:

Society of Fellows

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. 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 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.

Post-Baccalaureate Math and Statistics Program

The Post-Baccalaureate Math and Statistics Program for students historically underrepresented in these fields will begin in summer of 2020. 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.

Phase 3:

In 2022, we will develop a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowship for Diversity and Excellence.

Phase 4:

In 2023, the plan is to expand TGS’s Presidential Fellows program for senior graduate students.

Phase 5:

In 2024, we hope to expand the Pathways to the Professoriate program for a diverse population of post-baccalaureate students in numerous disciplines.