Shannon Simmons

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University has exceeded its goal to improve the diversity of the school’s faculty earlier than planned.

The university started with a goal, roughly two years ago, to improve the number of faculty and managerial staff from 14 percent to 18.5 percent, with a stretch target goal of 20 percent, by 2025.

However, according to President Dan Mahony, the number of faculty and managerial staff who are African American, Latin American, Native American, Asian or international is currently 21 percent.

As a result, the NCAA selected Winthrop as a case study to demonstrate how to effectively diversify a university athletics department.

Mahony, Athletic Director Ken Halpin and Senior Associate Athletic Director Renae Myles gave a presentation on the topic at an NCAA Convention workshop Jan. 23.

“When I started to get into higher education and I realized that there was a lack of diversity,” said Mahony. “I always tell the story; I didn’t have an African American faculty member until I was in graduate school, throughout my entire educational experience. There is something seriously wrong with that.

“He was one of the best faculty members I ever had, but I didn’t have one until that point and so there was something missing in my educational experience,” he said.

Jessica Primus, with the Winthrop chapter of the NAACP, said she believes diversity is important to universities in order to attract more minority students to campus.

However, she said she had other considerations when she made her college choice.

“Honestly among faculty…I didn’t really care about diversity too much. I realized how important it was when I got here, but looking for colleges, that wasn’t at the top of my list,” said Primus.

Rather, she said the cost of education was probably the most important issue when she chose Winthrop.

Primus, who will graduate with a social work degree this spring, said she has seen diversity improve in her department in recent semesters.

However,Mahony said Winthrop will continue to work to improve diversity and inclusion throughout the campus.

“I think the diversity council will continue to take the lead role on kind of answering what is next,” Mahony said. “What are the things we can do that we’re not currently doing and they’re always coming up with new ideas.”