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Chemistry Department Awarded Provost's First Exemplary Department Award


The Department of Chemistry earned bragging rights as best illustrating UC's commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence, along with a $40,000 award.

Date: 2/16/2016 12:00:00 AM
By: Elissa Yancey
Phone: (513) 556-4350
Photos By: Jean Assell

UC ingot   When faculty in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences’ Chemistry Department drafted their latest vision plan four years ago, they positioned diversity as a core priority. But they did more than draft a plan, they took aggressive action to increase the diversity of their faculty and strengthen their connections to a wide range of communities. 

That action is being generously rewarded by the Office of Provost Beverly Davenport, which named Chemistry the University’s inaugural “Exemplary Department” this month. The honor comes with a $40,000 award and is a part of the Provost’s Third Century investments in faculty. 

James Mack
James Mack, Assistant Dept. Head in Chemistry, works in the lab with students.

“This year, we wanted to recognize the efforts of departments where diversity is an embedded value, transcending the classroom and extending into the community,” said Provost Davenport. “I’m proud of what Chemistry has already done to increase excellence through diversifying its faculty and look forward to seeing how this award can further advance their important work.” 

Davenport noted that because there were many strong departmental nominations, her Office decided to award an additional $20,000 each to two runners-up: Physics, also out of the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, and Marketing, out of the Lindner College of Business. All three departments deserved recognition and support, she said. 

Chemistry, however, illustrated the power of working at all levels to increase diversity and embrace multicultural perspectives. The department already has nearly double the number of female faculty, triple the number of African American faculty and close to quadruple the number of Hispanic faculty of its national peers. Eight of the department’s last 16 faculty hires have been female, Hispanic or African-American, far exceeding national averages. 

“I was impressed by Chemistry’s success in hiring new faculty who bring new, diverse perspectives into their labs—these faculty also serve as important role models for undergraduate and graduate students,” said Damion Waymer, associate provost for Faculty Development and Diversity. Waymer noted that many of Chemistry’s successful initiatives can be replicated in other departments across campus, including:
  • Targeted recruiting at minority-serving institutions
  • Considering diversity as an important component of departmental awards
  • Looking beyond standardized test scores and using diversity as a core value when considering graduate admissions 
  • Supporting multicultural and community-building student initiatives, such as an international pot luck and a graduate student organization focused on cultural diversity
  • Forging partnerships between high-school students and scholar-mentors to create a pipeline of young talent and opportunity

Runners-up also serve as diversity leaders
Physics, another STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) department making concerted and successful efforts to diversify their student and faculty ranks, also earned praise from the Provost’s Office. 

“In a field where diversity can be hard to come by, our Physics Department has aggressively recruited and highlighted the work of women and other underrepresented minorities,” Waymer said. 

Physics’ initiatives include: speaker series, GRE Boot Camps, support for high-school-to-college bridge programs and holistic review of graduate applications. 

In the Lindner College of Business, the Marketing Department—the other Provost Office Exemplary Department Award honoree—emphasizes diverse and multicultural perspectives throughout its coursework and in its faculty makeup and scholarship. From Women in Sales to robust International Marketing courses with a dozen faculty experienced in teaching abroad, the department promotes classes that highlight multi-cultural perspectives as well as inclusion. 

The Marketing Department has already hosted a negotiation workshop for women, who earn 77 percent of what their male counterparts earn annually, according to the White House. After its success, they plan to host another. 

The selection process for the first-time award was competitive, with departments submitting detailed nominations and powerful testimonials about their ongoing contributions to diversity. “Together, these departments help to illustrate UC’s commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence,” Waymer said. “It is critically important for us to invest in them as part of our Third Century initiatives, and it is also important for us to share their stories.”