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Unit Contributions to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion 6488

Academic Years: 
Social Sciences
1. Faculty: 

In the past academic year, the Department of History has made great strides toward greater diversity in the composition of its faculty. In conjunction with the cluster hire in Black Studies, the department hired two new colleagues, Leslie Alexander and Curtis Austin, scholars of nineteenth- and twentieth-century African American history, respectively. As a result, our four faculty of color now comprise 16% of tenure-related faculty in the department, up from 12% in AY 2016-2017. The gender composition of our department, on the other hand, has barely changed. In AY 2016-2017, women made up 32% of regular faculty – a category that includes TT and Career NTT, but excludes pro tem and visiting faculty. This year, that figure is up, but only very slightly, to one third of our number. We still fall short of gender equity. The prospect for next year is good. We anticipate one retirement and two hires in the coming year and if both searches were to result in the hiring of female colleagues, then the proportions could shift significantly (up to 40%).

2. Staff: 

The composition of our staff has undergone profound changes in the past year. We have hired a new Department Manager and a new Accounting and Communications Coordinator; in addition to our continuing Academic and Travel Coordinator, this brings our total staff to three, of whom two are women.

3. Graduate Programs: 

As always, themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion remain at the core of our graduate curriculum. This commitment to diversity and equity is reflected in the seminar topics we offer and in the thesis topics our students choose. Because our curriculum is shaped by individual study with faculty advisors, curricular diversity is tied inextricably with the research fields of faculty. As a result of recent hires in U.S. history, especially, that diversity has expanded with the introduction of seminars and directed readings courses in the history of slavery (Native American as well as African American), Native American experiences, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, miscegenation law, and Mexican immigration to the U.S. We also offer an array of graduate seminars and colloquia (HIST 608), with topics that include the history of the indigenous people of the Americas, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and race. With the hiring of two new historians of African Americans, we also anticipate offering graduate colloquia in the coming years on such topics as African Americans, the African diaspora, and comparative slavery.

Over the past several years, our admissions committee has looked for ways to diversify our graduate student body as well. To some extent, our ability to do so has been hampered by the composition of our applicant pool – a factor over which we exert only limited control. In the last year, however, its diversity has increased considerably. In the 2015-2016, only 20% of the pool was composed of Latinx or non-white applicants; in 2016-2017, which produced this year’s incoming class, the same figure was 27%. Our admissions have been consistently more diverse, both in terms of ethnic/racial and gender composition, than the pool. Thus the admissions for 2016-2017 was 35.39% Hispanic or non-white. In this year’s incoming class, Hispanic or non-white students comprise is 62.5%. Despite these successes, however, the overall balance remains roughly the same: this year’s graduate student body is only slightly more diverse along ethnic/racial lines than last. Our success at recruiting women into our program has been considerably better. Five of eight students in this year’s incoming class are women (62.5%), which brings the overall proportion of female students over 50%.

We have expanded the diversity of our graduate faculty in other ways as well. One major initiative has been to integrate historians from other units – Honors College, the Law School, and Ethnic Studies – into our “graduate faculty.” That move not only added two African American women to our graduate faculty, but also deepened our ability to foster graduate study in the history of African Americans, Latin American slavery, and modern China.

4. Undergraduate Programs: 

Like our graduate program, our offering of undergraduate courses is driven by the subdisciplinary expertise of our faculty. Recent hires in Latino/a history (Weise) and colonial America (Rushforth) have enabled us to strength our undergraduate course offering on the history of slavery and ethnic relations in twentieth-century U.S. history. Professor Weise, for example, has developed a new, bilingual course on “Latinos in the Americas,” now regularized as HIST 248. A joint Career NTT hire with the Women’s and Gender Studies Program (Bufalino) ensures continuity in both units of course offerings in women’s history and the history of sexuality. Last year’s Black Studies hires (Alexander, Austin) will strengthen enormously our course offering all phases of African American history. This year’s hires in U.S. Women’s and Ancient history promise to diversify our curriculum further still. More broadly, our undergraduate program of study is structured to guarantee that students majoring in history study a wide range of periods and places. All students must take at least two upper division courses in three geographically defined fields; students cannot, in other words, settle into European or U.S. history without considering Asia, Africa, or Latin America. We also require our student to take at least two upper division courses that cover a period prior to 1800.

Like most Departments of History, ours has traditionally attracted undergraduate majors who were disproportionately white and male. In recent years, our most notable success in altering this trend has been our increased share of Latina/o student majors; we have also modestly increased our share of Asian-identified majors. As of Fall 2015, 74.56% of History majors identified as white, a number almost 17 points higher than the average for departments in the Social Sciences division. Among Asians, we have modestly increased our share in the past five years while the university’s Asian population has remained stable; still, this group is underrepresented (2.5% of the major vs. 7% of the university). The number of African American, Native American, and Pacific Islander students at the university is small, in both the university and the department. Consequently, it is difficult to detect trends among these populations other than to say that African Americans are consistently underrepresented (2.4% of the university vs. 1% of the major, with both numbers mostly stable in the last five years). We hope that expanded course offerings in African American and Native American history will reverse this underrepresentation.

One exciting trend is a marked increase in the number of Latinx students majoring in history. This tracks with trends in the profession as a whole: even as the number of History majors has declined since the Great Recession, the number of first-generation Latinx History majors has increased.6 While just five years ago our percentage of Latinx students lagged well behind the university’s by a factor of 1.5 to 2, we have been slowly catching up. By academic year 2015-2016, Latinx students comprised 10.53% of history majors, a little less than their portion of the student body as a whole. Given expected growth of the Latinx population at UO, this is a welcome trend.

Unfortunately, the gender balance among history students has unfortunately shown a disconcerting trend. Despite concerted efforts to create more courses of interest to female students, women remain badly underrepresented among History majors – less than a third, down from 40% six years ago. The department continues to review its curriculum and marketing efforts to find a successful strategy for luring more women into our ranks. We hope that hiring a specialist in U.S. Women’s history will help reverse this trajectory.

5. Outreach and Partnerships: 

Our ties to sister departments and programs reinforce our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have worked closely with Women’s and Gender Studies to ensure the continuity of curricular offerings in women’s history and the history of sexuality. Throughout the cluster hire in Black Studies, we collaborated closely with the Ethnic Studies program, and look forward to the closer ties that our new colleagues will bring. We remain especially active in relation to Latino/a studies. Professor Robert Haskett continues to participate in an NEH Summer Institute for School Teachers. More recently, Associate Professor Julie M. Weise was awarded a faculty fellowship in the Division for Equity and Inclusion to develop a university-wide “DREAMer Ally Training” program for faculty and staff. Since 2013, the state of Oregon has allowed undocumented immigrant students with established Oregon roots to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. The number of such students at UO is growing, as are the challenges these students face in the current political climate. Ensuring their safety and success is a core part of our academic mission. The training will take place three times during 2017-18, and is supported by DEI and the Division of Student Life. Weise is also working with the DREAMers Committee to institutionalize their work and the training for future years, so that UO may be a welcoming institution for students from immigrant backgrounds.