Research Mentoring Workshop
The Diversity Initiative for Tenure in Economics (DITE) is a research mentoring workshop that seeks to facilitate a successful transition from junior faculty status to tenured associate professor for economists from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. Awarded a five-year $23,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, the Research Network on Racial and Ethnic Inequality recently hosted a research and mentoring workshop.
Focused primarily on African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans, DITE provides a mentoring experience for a unique group of up to 12 junior faculty members, with PhDs in economics, to aid them in making a successful transition to tenured associate professor.
“DITE was conceived and has been implemented to provide a substantive, career-building mentoring experience primarily (but not exclusively) for black and Latino scholars with doctorates in economics who have chosen academic careers,” said William Darity, Director of The Research Network. “The mentoring experience addresses both concerns that face all junior faculty in economics and those that of particular relevance to economists from groups that grossly underrepresented in the economics profession.”
Rhonda Sharpe, Associate Director of DITE, explains how mentors commit to helping their pod of fellows - usually three to four fellows with research interests similar to that of the mentor for three years.
“The success of DITE hinges on the willingness of fellows to be forthcoming about the challenges they face, which enables the mentors to provide the best professional advice for that situation. Often the professional development sessions at the bi-annual DITE workshops held in May/June and February, address the challenges expressed by fellows in that cohort. I am still amazed at how confident, empowered, and overwhelmed (in a good way) fellows are after each DITE workshop. DITE mentors are phenomenal,” said Sharpe.
Many mentors, such as Patrick Bayer, department chair and professor of economics at Duke University, find the experience of mentoring young colleagues in the early stages of their careers exciting.
“I am very happy to be part of DITE -- not only do I strongly support the broad goal of increasing diversity in the profession (which is sorely needed), but I also really enjoy meeting and working with colleagues at the early stages of their careers -- as their energy and enthusiasm for ideas, research, and policy issues is contagious,” said Bayer.
Others, while still enjoying mentoring younger colleagues, understand how DITE is fulfilling a need for diversity in the economics profession.
“Many undergraduate students are encouraged to major in academic disciplines and to enter into fields of employment in which they observe workers who are of similar ethnic and racial backgrounds to themselves. DITE is a concrete method of pursuing the needed diversity in the Economic profession to ensure that such students see Economics as a welcoming opportunity. DITE offers to its Fellows and Mentees an achievable route to pursue such needed professional diversity. DITE pursues a lofty social aim by practical and successful means,” said Michael Lawlor, professor of economics at Wake Forest University.
Fellows are assigned distinguished and supportive mentors who are willing to share their professional networks, experience, and guidance to the DITE fellows.
“Being a DITE fellow has been an invaluable experience for me. It has provided me with great mentors that have supported me in every step of my career as a young scholar,” said Luisa Blanco, assistant professor of economics at Pepperdine University. “Through the DITE workshops I acquired tools and skills that have made me a better teacher and researcher. Furthermore, getting to know other DITE fellows is of great value because they are a network of young scholars that share experiences, collaborate with each other, and provide peer support.”
The gross underrepresentation of economists from these groups in the ranks of university faculty, particularly in economics departments, creates a need for special efforts to ensure that junior faculty from these groups develop the research and teaching profile that will lead to tenure.
“The DITE program is perfect for ensuring me that I am prepared fully for what is necessary for receiving tenured at my university. It also has made me a better professor and researcher by allowing me not only to meet faculty mentors, but talk with colleagues/peers that help me further my research and teaching agenda,” said Nicholas Hill, assistant professor of economics at Jackson State University.