* Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story wrongly identified Meg Webber as the source of the information and quotes about Winthrop’s efforts to recruit diverse faculty. This version now correctly identifies Zan Jones as the source. The Palmetto Report regrets the error.
(Rock Hill, S.C.) – Winthrop University welcomed 31 new faculty members to its diverse community for the fall 2019 semester, with each bringing fresh ideas and a unique set of experiences.
There are new hires in all four colleges at Winthrop, including 13 new faculty in Arts and Sciences, three in Business Administration, nine in Education and six in Visual and Performing Arts.
“This is definitely an environment that I can see myself prospering professionally. I am so excited and impressed to work with Winthrop students,” said Dr. Lashardai Brown, a new assistant professor of biology.
Brown comes to Winthrop after she was initially invited by the chair of the biology department to speak during the department’s seminar series.
She said she was excited to learn, just a year later, Winthrop had an opening in her field and she jumped at the opportunity to apply.
Brown, who will be teaching for the first time, said she plans to get students involved in the lab and classroom.
“I think that there is great wealth in hands-on learning. That is definitely my style, especially in the classroom, and as I set up my lab, which we would call experiential learning,” Brown said.
For Dr. Kathleen West, a Rock Hill native and new assistant professor of psychology, the wait to secure a full-time position at Winthrop was much longer.
West, who previously taught full-time at UNC Charlotte, had worked as an adjunct off-and-on at Winthrop for the past 11 years. She said she jumped at the opportunity to apply when her position opened up.
“I just love that it feels like a community, I just really like that feel about Winthrop. It feels like home it, doesn’t feel stressful to come to work. It’s where I’ve wanted to be for quite a while,” West said.
West, who will teach classes in general psychology and developmental psychology,
said she enjoys the small class sizes at Winthrop.
“I love that I actually get to know my students, I can actually interact with everyone, learn their names (and) I can learn their stories,” she said.
West has a background in neuroscience, including work studying drug and alcohol addiction, which she hopes will benefit her students.
“We used animal models to try to understand drug addiction. I had alcohol that I was giving to mice. What we were looking at were some of the things we could do during the withdrawal period to ease it and make it feel less severe. So when they were given a choice later on, they wouldn’t choose the alcohol,” said West.
She said she hopes students will be entertained and learn in her classes, but also understand, even at the highest level, it’s okay to not know an answer, as long as they’re asking questions.
Dr. Dennis Dotterer, a new assistant professor of educational leadership in the Counseling, Leadership and Educational Studies department, said he was drawn to Winthrop because of its strong reputation.
“It was pretty well understood that Winthrop was one of the top universities, if not the top university in the state when it came to education,” said Dotterer, who has previously worked for the S.C. Department of Education.
However, he said he initially had plans to work in business administration before ultimately deciding to pursue a career in education.
“I decided that I wanted to make a difference in the world and not just run the rat race. I was immediately told that ‘those who can’t do, teach’ and that has been the fire in my belly since I started,” he said.
Dotterer will teach graduate-level courses and work with students who aspire to work in an administrative position, such as a principal.
Zan Jones, associate vice president of human resources and chief diversity officer at Winthrop, said the school has worked to recruit a diverse faculty.
“One initiative Winthrop has implemented to increase the diversity of faculty is requiring each academic college,” said Jones, via email, “to form a diversity committee within their respective colleges. All faculty searches require at least one member of the diversity committee to serve as the diversity advocate on the search committee.”
Those diversity advocates encourage search committees to utilize best practices in recruiting and evaluating applicants, she said.
For example, search committees are required to provide a recruitment plan for attracting diverse candidates, advertise vacancies at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) with doctoral programs and send job announcements to professional organizations that serve women and minorities.
Winthrop ranked first this year, according to the S.C. Human Affairs Commission, among all of the other state four-year higher education institutions in achieving its target numbers regarding minorities and women in our workforce.
“This was a great accomplishment for our campus and clear indication that we are moving in the right direction with our efforts to recruit and retain qualified and diverse faculty, staff and administrators,” she said.