Faculty frequently have the opportunity to guide a student interested in pursuing a career in teaching. Indeed, many faculty members in the profession today owe their success to a helpful mentor at a community college. These informal efforts are critical components of student success and contribute to the gratification of being a community college educator.
The following are two typical stories:
Nearly twenty years ago, during office hours, a calculus student, having immigrated to the United States as a child, shared with his instructor that he might have to drop out of college due to financial issues, as he had no support from his family. During that moment, the math instructor was nearly speechless, since financial aid was far removed from her expertise. She therefore led the student across campus to the financial aid office. Ten minutes of the instructor’s time turned out to be life-changing for this promising math student. He landed a position as a tutor in the math lab and MESA center and became an in-class tutor. He stayed in college and completed his education. Today, he is a full-time mathematics professor in the California Community Colleges system.
Cynthia, a first-generation college Chicana, wanted to be a business major, her aspirations fueled by a desire to bring her family out of poverty. Midway into her first semester, Cynthia realized she actually loved stories. She grew to embrace the love for narratives about humanity and the writing experience that unfolded from making sense of those stories. Soon thereafter, Cynthia’s Chicana-identified English professor welcomed her into the composition classroom as an embedded writing consultant. Not only was Cynthia serving in the role of consultant but also as a peer mentor for students who, like her, had not seen themselves as potentially strong writers, let alone English majors. As a peer mentor and consultant, Cynthia was able to model how writing became a tool for personal and community empowerment. Seven years later and with a master’s degree in literature and writing studies, Cynthia applied for her first tenure-track position in the community college system.
Luck was present for those students: they found faculty members who were able and willing to help them. Many more students could be reached if faculty knew where to guide students or how to welcome students to explore their passions. Those most qualified to navigate student support services at the California community colleges are former students. The ideal future candidate for contract faculty, then, is today’s community college tutor or peer mentor. The community college system needs to move beyond ad hoc efforts towards purposeful programs and funding professional growth activities for students pursuing a career pathway to become a community college faculty member.
For very little expense, colleges can invest in their students to achieve long-term gains in faculty diversification and do so intentionally from an equity-minded and anti-racist framework by recognizing that institutional and systemic barriers of race and gender have skewed the makeup of the faculty workforce for far too long. This recognition can guide outreach to students aspiring to be community college educators. The importance of grow your own programs to help diversify faculty ranks was underscored by ASCCC Resolution 20.01 F20, “The Role of Student Employees in Advancing Faculty Diversification.” Professional development programs can be designed to recruit students of color and students underrepresented in particular disciplines for training as peer mentors, teaching assistants, and tutors similar to service learning toward a career pathway.
The need to diversify faculty in California’s community colleges has been recognized and formalized since at least the late 1980s with the passage of Assembly Bill 1725 (Vasconcellos, 1988). In 1990, former ASCCC President Karen Sue Grosz wrote, “The challenge of Assembly Bill 1725 lies before us” and then advised that “we should remind ourselves periodically of the intent language of the bill.” Grosz stated,
The people of California should have the opportunity to be proud of a system of community colleges which instills pride among its students and faculty, where rigor and standards are an assumed part of a shared effort to educate, where the hugely diverse needs of students are a challenge rather than a threat, where the community colleges serve as models for the new curricula and innovative teaching, where learning is what we care about most. (Grosz, 1990)
In accordance with this statement of intent, the ASCCC has long promoted faculty diversity. In 2001, the organization adopted Resolution 03.02 S01, which “Resolved, That the Academic Senate recognize that faculty diversity must be an integral part of any learning environment that increases student success; and Resolved, That the Academic Senate take a leadership role in promoting the diversification of faculty of the colleges.”
The strength of the community college system lies in recognizing the racial and ethnic diversity represented in its student body. Sixty-nine percent of California college students are from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said for the composition of the faculty. The Campaign for College Opportunity (2018) asserts the following regarding student demographics in the California Community Colleges system: 43% Latinx, 28% white, 13% AANHPI, 7% African American, 4% unknown, and 4% other. However, 61% of tenured system faculty are white.
The ASCCC acknowledges that the pace of faculty diversity has not kept up with growing student diversity since the adoption of its 2001 resolution. The Vision for Success Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force’s 2020 Report concludes, “As the California community college student population continues to diversify, faculty diversification is not keeping pace” since from 2006 to 2017 “underrepresented minority (URM) students have grown in size from 38% to 51% while the percentage of URM tenured faculty has only increased by 2%.” The somber entailment is that “Employees that provide direct instruction do not reflect the diversity of the students who they serve” (California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, 2020).
More than a quarter century has passed since the passage of AB 1725 in 1988, and progress towards diverse representation in California community college faculty can still be improved. Given the demographics of the student population, a practical approach would be for faculty to look to their own students and mentor them as part of the plan to increase the diversity of faculty. In fact, the concept of grow your own programs was incorporated into the Equal Employment Opportunity Fund Multiple Method Allocation Model (LeForestier, 2021).
Currently, faculty internship programs exist for graduate students and are intentionally designed to promote diversity at several community college districts, such as Glendale Community College, Long Beach City College, the Los Angeles Community College District, and the Los Rios Community College District. In its paper A Re-examination of Faculty Hiring Processes and Procedures (ASCCC 2018), the ASCCC promoted “the creation of ‘grow your own’ programs seeking to hire students who attended California Community Colleges.” As noted in that paper, peer mentors and tutors are a ready pool for recruiting students for a grow your own program. Colleges have long recognized student workers as an essential component of strategies to promote student success and equity. Moreover, a necdotal accounts suggest many students employed as peer mentors and tutors are students of color who aspire to careers as community college faculty members.
Faculty ad hoc efforts to mentor the next generation of educators will continue: doing so is part of the faculty’s work expectations and a source of great joy. However, colleges, districts, and the community college system as a whole should look beyond good faith ad hoc efforts for ways to effectively address structural bias and lack of diversity among faculty. One such way is to fund professional growth activities for peer mentors and tutors, particularly for students of color and students underrepresented in particular disciplines to encourage them toward teaching careers.
The work of the Grow Your Own Collective provides tangible interventions for addressing the lack of faculty of color in the California Community Colleges system. Their approach emphasizes that the work to racially and ethnically diversify the faculty ranks requires a community-based focus particularly rooted in the communities represented by the students. The system is well positioned to embrace the support of local communities in the ways colleges outreach to students, how colleges support them through the pipeline, and the opportunities created to ensure they attain their goal of becoming educators.
Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. (2018). A Re-examination of Faculty Hiring Processes and Procedures.https://asccc.org/sites/default/files/Hiring_Paper.pdf
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. (2020). Vision for Success Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force. https://www.cccco.edu/-/media/CCCCO-Website/Files/Communications/vision….
Campaign for College Opportunity. (2018). System Report: Dig into Key Diversity Metrics for Each California Campus System. https://collegecampaign.org/left-tool-system/.
Grosz, K. (1990, Summer). “The Challenge of Cultural Diversity in the California Community Colleges.” Forum Volume VII. Retrieved from https://asccc.org/sites/default/files/publications/Challenge_0.pdf
LeForestier, M. (2021). Allocation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Fund. California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Memo. https://www.cccco.edu/-/media/CCCCO-Website/Office-of-General-Counsel/A….
For more information on these programs see https://www.glendale.edu/about-gcc/employment/faculty-diversity-internship-program, https://www.lbcc.edu/pod/faculty-diversity-internship-program, https://www.laccd.edu/Departments/EPIE/Pages/Project-Match.aspx, and https://employees.losrios.edu/training/professional-development/faculty….
 See, for example, the ASCCC papers Basic Skills as a Foundation for Student Success in California Community Colleges (2007) https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED496117.pdf and Practices that Promote Equity in Basic Skills in California Community Colleges (2010) https://asccc.org/sites/default/files/publications/promote_equity_basicskills-spr2010_0.pdf.
 For more information on the Grow Your Own Collective see https://www.gyocollective.org/.