The Future of Faculty Diversity (Part 1): Graduate Student & Faculty Recruitment
SREB-State Doctoral Scholars Program Webinar Series

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In this webinar, panelists from across the higher education spectrum discussed the importance of faculty diversity and shared thoughts on how institutions can better recruit diverse graduate students and faculty.

Across the country, higher education leaders are championing the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. The calls for social change that came during the summer of 2020 in communities across the country have been amplified and highlighted within higher education institutions. On many campuses, a key component of the conversations is about an issue that has been inadequately addressed – or unaddressed entirely – for far too long: the lack of faculty diversity. In this webinar, panelists from across the higher education spectrum discussed the importance of faculty diversity and how institutions can better recruit diverse graduate students and faculty.


Dr. Lorelle EspinosaLorelle Espinosa, Ph.D. serves as program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, where she is responsible for developing and implementing evidence-based strategic priorities for the Foundation’s grantmaking to effectively advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in STEM higher education. Dr. Espinosa’s portfolio includes the Foundation’s signature DEI programs—the University Centers of Exemplary Mentoring and the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership—which seek to transform STEM graduate education by supporting universities in strengthening pathways to and through master’s and doctoral study for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous populations. With more than 20 years of experience in higher education research, policy, and practice, Dr. Espinosa is a national voice on issues pertaining to college access and success for diverse populations and on the role of equity-minded leadership in postsecondary settings. A Pell Grant recipient and first-generation college graduate, Dr. Espinosa earned her Ph.D. in higher education and organizational change from the University of California, Los Angeles; her B.A. from the University of California, Davis; and her A.A. from Santa Barbara City College. More about Dr. Espinosa >

Dr. Melvin (Jai) JacksonMelvin (Jai) Jackson, Ph.D. (he, him, his) is a higher education scholar-leader currently leading as the Director for Graduate Student Success within the College of Education at North Carolina State University. Dr. Jackson earned both his bachelor’s degree in Health Care Management and his master’s degree in College Student Development from Appalachian State University. He earned his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Research from Louisiana State University where he was recognized as a Louisiana Board of Regents Doctoral Fellow and a proud Southern Region Education Board Doctoral Fellow. He is a passionate servant-leader inspired by his work towards student advocacy, success, and representation. Through service in diversity, inclusion, and equity, Dr. Jackson continues to dedicate his career towards the proliferation of an environment of collective success and anti-racist realities. More about Dr. Jackson >

Dr. Rana JohnsonRana Johnson, Ph.D., is a native of Louisville, Kentucky and serves as the Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence and Strategic Initiatives at Indiana State University. Through four main initiatives, she has become an advocate for equity and inclusion in higher education, faculty diversity, first-generation students and their families and culturally relevant pedagogy.

Dr. Johnson began her higher education career as a teaching and research assistant at Eastern New Mexico University and the University of Kentucky, respectively. She served almost two decades at the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), Kentucky’s statewide postsecondary and adult education coordinating agency, overseeing several statewide policy initiatives. Dr. Johnson also served on the SREB-State Doctoral Scholars Program Regional Advisory Committee as the Kentucky representative for nearly a decade. As a former SREB scholar, she understands the significance of internal and external support structures and the impact they have on doctoral degree completion. More about Dr. Johnson > 

Dr. Kent SmithKent Smith Ph.D., is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation with Chickasaw and Cherokee descent. He earned his doctoral degree in Zoology from the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Smith is an associate dean in the College of Osteopathic Medicine and professor of Anatomy at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences (OSU-CHS) and is a Research Associate at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. He is a founding member of the Association of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine’s Council on Diversity and Equity. 

Dr. Smith is a well-recognized fossil mammal expert. He has authored papers published in international journals naming several new fossil mammals including a short-jawed mustelid that was named in honor of the Chickasaw people (Brevimalictis chickasha). In 2014, Dr. Smith founded the Office of American Indians in Medicine and Science at OSU-CHS with a vision to increase the number of American Indian physicians, scientists, and educators. Kent’s passion to introduce STEM and medicine to American Indian youth inspired him to create the Native Explorers program and co-found the Chickasaw Nation’s Junior Explorers program. He is a 2001 graduate of the SREB-State Doctoral Scholars Program. More about Dr. Smith >

Recorded on January 12, 2021