Professor of Comparative Literature Michelle Warren has been named senior advisor for faculty development, diversity, and inclusion in the division of Arts and Sciences, Dean of the Faculty Elizabeth Smith has announced.
In the position, which she began on Jan. 1, Warren will be a key liaison for the dean of the faculty’s office on all matters related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“In addition to being an outstanding scholar and teacher, Michelle’s demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion in higher education is evidenced by her service to the College,” Smith wrote in an email to the faculty last month. “The associate deans and I look forward to working with Michelle to advance our commitment to recruit and retain a diverse faculty and to provide a supportive and inclusive environment where all faculty can flourish as scholars, creatives, and educators.”
Among her new responsibilities: Warren will advise search committees on best practices for increasing faculty diversity; work directly with the dean and associate deans on faculty recruitment and hiring strategies; coordinate Arts and Sciences’ progress toward the diversity and inclusion goals President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 outlined earlier this year, as well as Dartmouth’s Inclusive Excellence and Campus Climate and Culture Initiative (C3I); recommend policy changes; and develop pilot programs to expand faculty development programs, particularly for early- and mid-career faculty.
She will also collaborate with partners across campus in Arts and Sciences and the graduate and professional schools, as well as the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, the Office of the Provost, the director of academic department climate reviews, the special advisor to the president for faculty diversity, and the senior vice president and chief diversity officer, among others.
Warren’s scholarship and teaching focus on race, ethnicity, and power relations in the European Middle Ages and the academic discipline of medieval studies itself. Her current research, supported by fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies, investigates how colonial capitalism has influenced the preservation and digitization of medieval manuscripts in modern libraries. Her project follows one book about King Arthur and the Holy Grail from 15th-century London to the 21st century internet.
Since 2010, Warren has served as faculty director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, which supports students from underrepresented backgrounds in pursuing careers in academia.
“Mellon Mays introduced me to students in lots of majors, with lots of intellectual interests, whom I never would have met otherwise,” Warren says of her more than a decade directing the program. “As I got to know them, and the faculty working with them, I started to see the connections between sophomores excited about ideas and tenured faculty committed to addressing racial underrepresentation in higher education. I also saw the many breaking points in that process, small and large. There are many reasons any individual may tap out of the ambition of earning a PhD and seeking a faculty career.”
Warren carried this experience with her to the Office of the Provost, where she spent three years as assistant provost for faculty recruitment (a role subsequently held by Professor of Government Dean Lacy, now associate provost for faculty affairs).
“When I would hear from faculty about their difficulties in diversifying their applicant pools, I would point out that some of our future faculty are already here. ‘Those candidates are in your classroom. They’re 10 years away from being in your applicant pool,’” Warren says. “It’s not some hazy, distant future. Mellon Mays students I worked with less than 10 years ago are already professors. I want Dartmouth to be a place where they could see themselves thriving.”
“We need to see diversifying the faculty as a longitudinal process—but one with immediate results,” she says. “Dartmouth is a highly selective institution that prepares students to excel in many fields. So how do we do that in a way that sustains and expands representation in all areas of knowledge—and even creates new areas of knowledge? Our student body is already more diverse than the faculty. We can begin to close that gap by looking closely at curricula and teaching from the broad frameworks of diversity and inclusion. Those efforts can also have positive impacts on the climate for the faculty who are already here, especially those who may be the only or one of a few faculty of color in their departments or programs.”
Warren was also principal investigator for the Mellon Foundation Grant for Faculty Diversity that Dartmouth received in 2016, and has contributed to national diversity and inclusion initiatives, including as a program adviser for College Horizons, a higher education nonprofit serving Native American students.
As special advisor, Warren wants faculty and colleagues across campus to think of her “as a connector,” she says.
“In academia, we talk a lot about gatekeepers as people who decide who comes in. I talk with my students about being the gatekeeper who opens the gate. I see myself as what one of my colleagues calls an invitational style of leader. I want to invite people in, to go where I’m invited, and have a meaningful impact on measurable progress toward Dartmouth’s goals to increase diversity, improve inclusivity, achieve equity, and foster an anti-racist culture.”
Hannah Silverstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.