Visiting professors are common at universities, but the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee has six visiting “professors-to-be” on campus this summer.
UWM’s Diversity Scholars Program, as the name implies, is designed to diversify summer faculty and course offerings by giving graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds a chance to teach and conduct research. And, adds Johannes Britz, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, the university also hopes to eventually recruit some of the scholars from the summer program to the UWM faculty.
The six current Diversity Scholars were selected from more than 100 applicants from around the country. This is the second year for the program at UWM.
The scholars bring a wide range of experience and academic interests to the campus – teaching courses in linguistics, history, Africology and art; doing engineering research; and collaborating on a grant application.
Simanique Moody, who plans to finish her doctorate in linguistics at New York University this summer, applied to the program because of the opportunity to teach a college-level class on a diverse campus with support from a faculty mentor.
Besides, she adds, “I’ve never been to Milwaukee, and I liked the way the program was structured.” Her research interests focus on the Geechee or Gullah language, an African Creole language spoken in the coastal regions of the Carolinas and Georgia. Her great-grandmother spoke the language and fueled her interest in linguistics.
At UWM, she’s teaching a linguistics course on various forms of language. “It’s a great class. The students are very dynamic and interactive.”
Calvin Warren, who earned his doctorate in American Studies and African American Studies at Yale, is teaching an Africology class called “Philosophy and Thought in the “Afroworld II.” He was attracted to UWM because of the strong Africology program, and has found himself at home with supportive faculty. “It’s a beautiful campus and the students are some of the best students I’ve ever had.”
Kiron Johnson, a doctoral candidate at NYU, is excited about being able to teach a class that zeroes in on one of her favorite historical research areas – the Reconstruction era following the Civil War.
“It was a time when people were coming out of slavery; a time of possibilities and imagining all they could have.”
“I knew three things about Milwaukee – beer, good weather and the Art Museum,” says Nishiki Tayui, who received her Master of Fine Arts in painting at Indiana University. The diversity program caught her interest because it’s an area she’s deeply involved with because of her own heritage. Tayui was born and grew up in Japan, but has lived in the United States for the past 10 years. Her Japanese heritage influences her art as well as her teaching. “When I create art, my heritage is a tool to understanding who I am.” Offering different cultural perspectives on a subject is one of the many benefits of having a diverse faculty, she says.
Lauren Thomas, a doctoral candidate in engineering education at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, was attracted to UWM because of the opportunity to work with different faculty members while continuing research in her specialty field of optics. She’s also focused on education. “I want to help attract students to the discipline,” she says. As part of her work at UWM, she’s collaborating with other faculty members in writing a National Science Foundation proposal for engineering education, focusing on optics.
Eric Grollman, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Indiana University, says, “I really like teaching and it’s good to go to a new environment with students from different backgrounds.”
His research and teaching focus on issues of sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity and social psychology. He has found, he says, those interests fit well into the broad field of sociology.
He is teaching a class on the sociology of sexuality at UWM this summer. Being part of a faculty while still in a doctoral program is a great experience, he says, giving him an opportunity to get to know faculty members and talk with them about issues in the field.
“When you’re working on your Ph.D., you really don’t know what it’s going to be like to be a member of the faculty.” This experience, Grollman says, is an opportunity to experience that.