Interfolio’s Dossier began in 1999, and back then, our delivery structure of sending materials to an opportunity was pretty straightforward. We originally only processed deliveries via USPS, FedEx, fax, and a few by email. Our main clients were faculty members or those applying to faculty roles. We continue to serve scholars seeking tenure-track faculty positions, but our online products now serve people in a much wider range of situations, including medical school applicants, graduate students, social workers, surgeons, and even several football coaches.  

At the core, our mission has stayed the same: Putting our users first by providing them with consistent tools for their careers. To a significant degree, Dossier Deliver exists to deliver materials to jobs, grants, fellowships, medical school programs, grad school, etc. 

Here, we explore the various types of deliveries, including the intricacies of each type. 

Email Delivery 

What is it? Use this when you want Interfolio to send your materials directly to an email address. 

Sometimes, a search will want materials to be sent to a specific individual instead of a group email address. For example, “You can send your materials/application to me at”   

Other times, a search wants those materials to be sent to an HR or department address. For example, “Apply to this position by emailing your LORs & CV to” 

Either way, when creating your delivery through your Dossier account, you’ll need to provide us with the name of the recipient and the correct email address. 

Issues With Your Delivery? 

  • Was your delivery canceled? If so, reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to explain why that happened. 
  • If we are not able to verify the email address, you can forward us proof of a conversation with that individual that explains they are expecting materials from you. 
  • Or you can provide us with a URL that includes the email address where those materials need to be sent. You can do this during the delivery creation process. 
  • If you have received confirmation from us that your delivery was sent but your delivery recipient has not received the email, the first step is for the delivery recipient to check their spam folder. If it’s not there, reach out to us and let us know. We’ll be able to resend the delivery to help ensure it gets to the intended recipient without any problems. 

Tips & Tricks 

  • You can include as many documents as you want in an email delivery. So, if you’re looking to send many documents that are hundreds of pages long, we encourage using the email delivery option.  
  • You can “order” the materials in your email delivery, meaning you have the ability to arrange them in a sequence of your choosing. This allows them to be read in a certain order by the intended receiver. You can do this during the delivery creation process. 

Mail Delivery 

What is it? Use this when you want Interfolio to mail physical copies of your materials to a destination. Please note that different institutions have different requirements. 

Issues With Your Delivery? 

  • Was your delivery canceled? If so, reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to explain why that happened. 
  • If we were not able to verify the address, you can forward us proof of a conversation with that individual that explains they are expecting materials from you. 
  • Or you can provide us with a URL that includes the address where those materials need to be sent. 

Tips & Tricks 

  • There are a number of shipping methods to choose from. Included in your Dossier Deliver subscription is the “USPS First Class” option—there is no additional cost to you for this shipping option. All other options have an additional cost associated with them. This is a good reason to stay on top of deadlines so you can avoid rush delivery and the additional cost. 
  • If you want tracking for your mail delivery, sending FedEx is the only option. FedEx deliveries have an additional cost. 
  • You can “order” the materials in your mail delivery, meaning you have the ability to arrange them in a sequence of your choosing. This allows them to be read in a certain order by the intended receiver. You can do this during the delivery creation process. 
  • Please note that we are unable to deliver to P.O. Boxes. 

Confidential Letter Upload (CLU) 

What is it? The trickiest of the bunch! Use this when you want Interfolio to upload your confidential letters of recommendation into another online application system. This option is most commonly used by medical school applicants.  

This type of delivery takes one of two forms: either the external system provides you with a link to pass along to your letter writers or the external system asks you for your letter writers’ email addresses. 

When the external system provides you with a link to pass along to your letter writers:
In this situation, you simply follow the Confidential Letter Upload instructions when creating a new delivery in your account. You paste in the upload link and indicate which letter you’d like us to upload, and we go and upload it there. Simple!   

When the external system asks you for your letter writer’s email address:
In this situation, Interfolio can substitute for your letter writer. (Except sometimes, unfortunately, when we can’t. See below for exceptions.) 

Suppose you are applying to Demo University and have been asked to provide them with the email addresses of three letter writers. Normally, the school would reach out to your letter writers via those email addresses, asking them to upload a letter of recommendation. If you have letters stored in your Interfolio Dossier account, Interfolio can often stand in for your letter writer and upload letters on their behalf. 

In order for Interfolio to process these deliveries, we automatically generate a unique email address associated with each letter of recommendation you have in your Dossier account. When the external online application system asks for your letter writer’s email address, you can substitute the unique Interfolio email address associated with that writer’s letter. Once you submit that request, you’re all done—we’ll take care of the rest. 

Issues With Your Delivery? 

  • We may have to cancel a delivery due to required questions within the application that we do not know the answers to. Unfortunately, if we run into questions that must be answered on behalf of your letter writer to upload the letter, we cannot legally do this. Some possible personal questions that prevent us from processing the delivery include: 
    • Rank the applicant among other students in recent years 
    • How long have you known the applicant? 
    • How well do you know the applicant? 
  • We also cannot complete a delivery when a user is prompted to upload the letter of recommendation themselves. In these situations, users will provide us with their login information to upload the letter. We cannot accept that information from the user—it’s a liability for us to have that information. 
  • If confidential letter uploads are ever canceled, we suggest you reach out to the institution directly and explain why. They can often provide you with an email address to send materials directly, then they can upload the letters to your application. (See email delivery above!) 

Tips & Tricks 

  • Make sure you are submitting the document email address found in your Dossier account when the application asks for your letter writer’s email address and be sure to submit that request. Going through the CLU delivery process via the Delivery page on your account alone does not create the requests—you must make sure you are entering in that information and submitting it on the application website. 
  • Haven’t received confirmation that we’ve received the request? Give it a little time. We do receive requests instantly. Unfortunately, we have no control over when the application sends the request to the document email address you entered. If you think it’s been an appropriate amount of time since you submitted that request and you still haven’t received confirmation that we’re working on the delivery, reach out to us, and we’ll double-check to see if we’ve received the request or not. 
  • Need to submit your application before you’ve received the letter in your account? Contact us and we can give you the unique email address to enter your application. 
  • Our one to three-day turnaround time is once we receive the request, not once you submit the request on the application. Sometimes there is a delay from when you submit the application/request and when we receive it. 

Running up against a deadline? As always, we can expedite most delivery types for you. Just send an email to with your delivery number letting us know you need it expedited, and we will get to work on that ASAP.   

In 2023, we processed 218,719 Dossier Deliveries for our users. Trust Interfolio with yours.   

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here

In the last decade, higher education student bodies have become more diverse, but the faculty at most institutions increasingly do not reflect the diversity of the students they teach. Colleges and universities have recognized this imbalance, and many have committed to hiring and retaining a more diverse faculty body. While there have been gains in recent years, a new report from the Government Accountability Office found that some groups—Black and Hispanic professors in particular—are still underrepresented at higher education institutions. 

Many colleges and universities are doubling down on their efforts, and for good reason. They recognize that improving minority representation in academia is about more than hitting a quota—it’s about creating a supportive campus climate, ensuring student success, and recruiting and retaining talented faculty. 

Ultimately, it’s about making the institution more inclusive, effective, and attractive to the highest quality professors and researchers. 

What Is Faculty Diversity? 

Faculty diversity means more than just racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. A diverse faculty should also represent a range of abilities, social statuses, sexual orientations and gender identities, religions, viewpoints, and scholarly interests.  

The impact of representation in higher education cannot be overstated. For example, if a student with a hearing disability encounters a professor with a similar disability, they may start to see a future for themselves in academia. A new path has appeared for them—and now they are more likely to pursue graduate school and research opportunities. 

The Importance of Faculty Diversity in Higher Education 

Having a diverse faculty benefits students, the institution as a whole, the larger research community, and the faculty members themselves.  

When your faculty members come from a variety of backgrounds and have varied interests, your institution can offer a greater range of programs and research opportunities. Faculty with unique perspectives can also broaden classroom discussions and introduce students to new ideas. 

Improved Student Engagement and Retention 

Achieving faculty diversity enhances underrepresented students’ educational experiences. Minority faculty can provide much-needed support and opportunity for growth and development to students from similar groups. For example, Black students may feel more comfortable talking about their challenges to faculty members with whom they have shared experiences.  

A more supportive and inclusive educational experience results in improved academic performance, and we’ve seen time and time again that increased faculty diversity leads to better graduation rates for students from underrepresented groups. In fact, performance gaps between white and minority students—e.g., dropout rates—fall significantly for minority students in classes taught by minority faculty members, with long-term positive effects on retention and degree completion. 

Enhanced Learning Environments and Campus Climate 

Today’s students are looking more closely at faculty diversity and representation when choosing which institution to attend. When you have a diverse faculty body, you attract more students from underrepresented groups to your institution, which itself has a host of positive effects.  

For example, students’ learning outcomes improve when they informally interact with other students from different racial groups. In particular, these students show improved intellectual engagement, self-motivation, and civic and cultural engagement. Students’ critical thinking, problem solving, and writing skills also improve from interacting with students from different backgrounds than their own. 

Increased Opportunity and Better Preparation for the Real World 

The skills students develop in interacting with a diverse faculty and student body also prepare them to successfully interact with the people they will encounter in the real world. 

Students graduate into a multicultural world, where the majority of work settings will involve interacting with people of different races, faiths, abilities, and viewpoints. To succeed in these settings, students must recognize the value of different experiences and know how to communicate in a way that is sensitive to these differences.  

Students exposed to diversity during their time in higher education are also more engaged citizens as adults and, in general, better prepared for all facets of adult life

How to Close the Diversity Gap 

It’s easy to understand why colleges and universities are eager to increase faculty diversity—it’s good for students, faculty, and the institution itself.  

Nevertheless, many institutions have struggled to make significant progress. Improving diversity in higher education requires addressing multiple challenges, including shortcomings in recruitment and promotion practices as well as pipeline problems (that is, an insufficient number of new Ph.D. graduates from underrepresented groups).  

Here are a few steps that institutions can take to improve their recruitment process and long-term faculty retention: 

Recognize and guard against unconscious bias: One threat to increasing faculty diversity is unconscious bias, or social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. To combat this threat, institutions should examine policies and practices for any potential discriminatory effects. Hiring committees, in particular, should be aware of unconscious bias and take action to combat it.  

Focus on education: Consider providing all of your employees with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training. Your training program can include multiple levels, including materials that establish a baseline of knowledge and programs that enable faculty to deepen their understanding of DEI issues.  

Create community groups and support systems: Encourage the creation of groups, such as Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), that give employees a sense of community and a support network to either fall back on when facing challenges or celebrate with following professional successes. 

Rethink hiring practices: In addition to targeted training and education on DEI issues, an essential step to increase faculty diversity is to improve your hiring practices. For example, institutions can circumvent affinity bias by auditing applicant pools against earned doctorate survey data from the National Science Foundation.  

Promote Diversity in Higher Education With Interfolio 

While improving your hiring practices is one important part of increasing faculty diversity, progress also depends on examining your academic review policies and processes. 

Is your university doing all the right things to appropriately influence faculty applicant pool diversity? 

Universities that hire faculty through Interfolio gain a new level of applicant pool data, equitable committee work, and consistency that enables them to reach diverse academic hiring outcomes. 

You can learn more here about how we can help your institution reach its diversity goals—and enjoy the many benefits that come from faculty diversity.

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD headshot

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor and Director of Academic Literacies Tutoring Center

Anne Arundel Community College

Tamisha J. Ponder, PhD, ERYT

Tamisha J. Ponder, PhD, ERYT

Adjunct Professor and Founder/CEO

Anne Arundel Community College, Sankofa Health & Wellness

Depending on the time of the academic year, faculty may neglect effective self-care and wellness practices because we feel the need to “push through” or “just get it done.” While this approach isn’t always the safest, many faculty may admit that it’s how things have always been, and they plan to rest when it’s “less busy.” We know we are guilty of this mindset sometimes. 

As we bring the academic year to an end, we encourage faculty to do a self-assessment and evaluate how they spent their emotional, mental, and physical energy over the past year. Consider what you need to do to rest, reset, and re-energize. This post offers tips for faculty—but they can also be useful for administrators, staff, and students—on how to be more intentional about adopting effective self-care practices at the end of an academic year.

Tip 1: Cultivate I.R.B. (Intention, Rest, and Boundaries)

Imagine enjoying a morning cup of coffee before tending to your notifications and emails. Envision the sun on your skin and wind on your eyelashes before a reminder alerts you. Cultivating IRB means to set an intention before the world requests of you. With a good night’s rest and morning intentionality, early morning mindfulness can seem less like a fairytale and more like a non-negotiable. 

Begin your mornings with the intention of self-preservation before your to-do lists define your day. This may require you to get up earlier or reevaluate the appropriation of your time, but afterward, it will make sense. Nobody said it was easy, but we all agree that it is worth it. 

Tip 2: Prioritize Play 

Somewhere along the way, adulthood kicked in and life began to life—and responsibilities overshadowed a type of innocence and carefree status that can only be recognized by your younger self. I often ask my folks, who were you before the world told you who you were? What activities did you do before said life event? 

This is where play comes into the picture. What does it feel like to laugh without judgment? Get messy without fear of cleaning up. Excitement without boundaries. The concept of “play” might confuse you; however, I ask you to not think so hard about it. If you played outside as a kid, lace up your sneakers and explore the great outdoors. If you meddled with arts and crafts in your younger days, take a visit to your local craft store and fill up your cart! The nostalgic remix of your then and now can be a full-circle experience that you didn’t know you needed.

Tip 3: Summer Reset

The academic year can bring many joys, challenges, pains, and growth to faculty. While we love what we do, the challenges can sometimes become overwhelming. Incorporating self-care strategies and techniques throughout the academic year is crucial, and summer should definitely be a time to reset. 

Personally, we use summer as an opportunity to recharge. We strive to only say yes to essential work tasks and embrace activities that bring play and pleasure. We are not suggesting that colleagues spend all their money on relaxation but rather emphasizing the importance of intentional self-care practices during the summer. Without this intentionality, you risk continuing down a path toward exhaustion and burnout. 

We suggest you approach summer with clear plans for what you want to accomplish, both professionally and personally. Create a to-do list that outlines your strategic and intentional Summer Reset plans. As your semester and contract come to an end, set aside time to thoughtfully add activities and experiences to your schedule that align with your reset goals.

Tip 4: Create/Join an Accountability Group

Just as we have writing, working, and exercising accountability groups and partners, we must also create spaces that hold us accountable for self-care. Find others with similar self-care or wellness goals and establish a collaborative community to achieve these goals together. Decide on the objectives of your formal or informal group, how you will hold each other accountable, and how you will celebrate both shared and individual successes. 

Having a self-care and wellness accountability space will motivate you to continue on your journey. Many tasks, accomplishments, and achievements require a village for support. Find, build, and cultivate your village as you strive to be the best version of yourself.

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC, is a tenured Associate Professor and Director of Academic Literacies Tutoring Center at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach. Feel free to reach out at or on X (Twitter) @Tomlinantione.

Tamisha J. Ponder, PhD, ERYT is an adjunct professor at Anne Arundel Community College and founder/CEO of Sankofa Health & Wellness, an integrative wellness company. Dr. Ponder leads an accredited and registered yoga teacher training program and mindfulness courses. Feel free to reach out at or on X (Twitter) @TJackPonder.

Build Your Dossier With Interfolio.
Advance With Confidence.

Applying for academic programs or positions requires many artifacts. Put your best foot forward with Interfolio.

Start building your dossier for free today.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

Inside Higher Ed and Hanover Research recently released the 2024 Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers. The findings, which dive into responses from 331 provosts from across the country, highlight how academic leaders are feeling about a variety of topics at this point in time. Here’s a glimpse at what provosts shared about what they’re currently experiencing. 

Faculty and Staff Retention Challenges 

Turnover and retention are proving to be a challenge for the majority of academic leaders, with 35% of provosts seeing faculty turnover rates that are higher than usual. Adding to the challenge, 30% of provosts report retirement rates that are higher than usual.  

In addition, 60% of provosts say that recruiting faculty is more challenging now than it was prior to the pandemic. In an effort to combat this issue, 39% say their institution is doing more now than it was before the pandemic to retain and engage faculty members. And about three-quarters of provosts (74%) noted that their institution surveys faculty, staff, and administrators to assess their job satisfaction. 

Academic Leaders’ Thoughts on Tenure  

The overwhelming majority (83%) of provosts feel that tenure is important to the overall health of their institution, with 50% deeming the practice to be very or extremely important. When it comes to viability, 62% of provosts believe that tenure is very or extremely viable within their institution.  

However, provosts are notably split when it comes to the idea of supporting long-term faculty contracts over the existing tenure system we see in higher education today. Overall, 54% of provosts favor making the change to contracts while 46% oppose the idea. Digging into the demographics, there are striking differences seen when considering the type of institution, the age of the respondent, and the region where the respondent lives.  

For example, provosts at private doctoral and master’s institutions are especially likely to favor long-term contracts (67%), while provosts at public doctoral institutions are the least likely to favor the idea over the current tenure system (41%). Contracts are also more highly favored by provosts aged 40–49 (60%) and 50–59 (57%) than they are by provosts aged 60–69 (46%). Provosts in the Northeast region are also more likely to favor long-term contracts (62%) than their counterparts in the South (45%).   

Teaching Versus Research: What’s More Important? 

When it comes to the role of faculty, provosts have differing views about the importance of teaching and research when it comes to their institution versus higher education as a whole. In fact, 80% of provosts feel that teaching is more important than research at their own institution. Just 15% say they believe teaching and research are equally important at their institution, while the remaining 5% say research is more important.  

In contrast, 44% of provosts say teaching and research are equally important across higher education as a whole—not just at their own institution. Upon taking a closer look at the demographics, those at public doctoral and private master’s or doctoral institutions are more likely to say that research matters as much as teaching.  

A Closer Look at Provost Job Satisfaction 

Overall, the vast majority of provosts surveyed (87%) agree or strongly agree that they are glad they pursued administrative work in higher education, with relative consistency across demographics. Gay and lesbian respondents are somewhat less likely (78%) to agree that they’re glad they pursued this work than their heterosexual counterparts (87%), and respondents aged 60–69 are somewhat more likely (94%) to agree than those who are 50–59 and 40–49 (82% for both groups).  

While it’s encouraging to see how many provosts are glad they pursued the role, these individuals have a tough road ahead. In particular, issues with retention, recruitment, workloads, and equity will require extra consideration in the coming years as academic leaders continue to face heightened pressures in these areas. Do you have the tools you need to address these challenges? 

Access the full report now to learn more about these findings from Inside Higher Ed and Hanover Research.  

Applying for academic jobs and programs involves aggregating a variety of materials. Since 1999, millions of scholars have entrusted Interfolio with their career aspirations, using Interfolio’s Dossier to:

  • Navigate stressful application processes
  • Request, store, and send accurate and confidential letters
  • Collect, curate, and prepare materials
  • Send materials or collections for feedback and mentorship

The Interfolio team has hosted and fine-tuned these interactions and processes. This helps alleviate stress and facilitate preparation for our users so they can focus on the outcome of their efforts: getting to their next career milestone. 

Here, we break down the five central benefits of an online scholar-focused dossier—and speculate about what a global network of digital academic portfolios could mean for networking and knowledge sharing.

Benefits of an Online Academic Dossier:

  1. An online dossier makes it possible to manage multiple confidential letters of recommendation for multiple applications. Surely this is the best-known purpose of an online academic dossier—and it’s a game-changer. Instead of asking letter writers over and over to submit letters to dozens of destinations, you can just ask each of them to submit one unaddressed letter (or several variants) to your dossier service. By making it easier for letter writers, you can maintain a stronger relationship with them—and you don’t have to constantly check in on whether or not a writer has completed their letter.
  2. It facilitates the sharing of materials for feedback in a relatively seamless way. The ability to send a digital copy of your CV or a collection of materials at the push of a button to anyone, anywhere, is an incredibly beneficial capability of online dossiers. Simply upload and then send mentors, advisors, or even a peer a copy of your application packet and receive their thoughts and feedback on how to put your best foot forward. And all the feedback is captured so you can easily accept and translate it—or pass on certain thoughts and ideas.
  3. It enables a scholar to apply to a large number of opportunities—and to apply on short notice. For a scholar who maintains an academic dossier online, the actual sending of application materials is simpler and quicker, with the ability to submit an application packet with a few clicks from anywhere. The time available to invest in the most substantive, meaningful aspects of your career management—to revise statements, research opportunities, learn about peers’ work, and attend events—can be severely constrained by the labor it takes to get all of your applications out the door.
  4. It gives scholars a place to store the most up-to-date versions of their own materials. If you use an online dossier service, you have a dedicated space for your career materials that is accessible from anywhere. Is an academic dossier service the only way to store your documents online? Of course not. But you gain the added benefit of a dedicated venue in which to organize your work, so you’ll know exactly where to go to find what you need.
  5. It gives scholars a consolidated historical record of their career steps. A dossier service makes for a more informed applicant. When you organize your job search, grant applications, or even a medical school portfolio online in this way, you can rely on a single place to reference any past attempts. It’ll help you remember which opportunities you applied for at which times, which materials were sent to which destinations, to whom you addressed a packet at a particular institution (and at what address), and similar details. The dossier service stores this information for you, making it easy to reference as needed.

Academics are highly qualified applicants in a very tight market—with limited time. With Interfolio’s Dossier, you can get a head start. By shortening the path from point A to point B, it affords individual scholars greater freedom to represent their contributions and character, and to make connections with the right collaborators. Plus, Dossier gives you access to an extensive database of academic positions, fellowships, and grants, so you can handle the entire process in one convenient location. 

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish, and submit their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path.

Build Your Dossier With Interfolio.
Advance With Confidence.

Applying for academic programs or positions requires many artifacts. Put your best foot forward with Interfolio.

Start building your dossier for free today.

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD headshot

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor and Director of Academic Literacies Tutoring Center

Anne Arundel Community College

Kenneth Gilliard, M.S

Kenneth Gilliard, MS

Student Success and Retention Advisor, Student Achievement and Success Program

Anne Arundel Community College

As Black male community college educators, we find it fitting, as we approach the midpoint of the semester, to share some tips and strategies for supporting Black male students. While these insights originate from our experiences as both Black male students and educators in higher education, we firmly believe they can be valuable and applicable to anyone supporting Black male students, whether in K-12 or higher education settings. 

Far too often, Black male students lack the necessary support to thrive academically, prompting us to offer practical tips that educators can readily incorporate into their practices. However, we acknowledge that these tips serve as just a starting point. We urge our colleagues to continuously seek out additional resources and support systems to aid Black male students, recognizing that there are no quick fixes or one-size-fits-all solutions to addressing mindset shifts and providing equitable opportunities for their success. 

Moreover, let us be clear: It is not Black male students who need to change, but rather us, the educators, who must evolve our thinking and approaches to cultivate safer environments that promote connection, belonging, and achievement. Therefore, in our efforts to expand opportunities, we must understand that this is not a concern for Black male students to do something differently; it is an issue that requires collective action and reflection among educators.

Gilliard Tip 1: Create Supportive Spaces, Communities, and Resources—and Address Systemic Barriers

Take a deeper approach and get to know the why and not just the who in that moment. In the perspective of an archaic education system that was not built with the Black male or any minority student in mind, it is important to view the holistic student. Recognize and address the systemic barriers and challenges that disproportionately impact Black male students, such as financial insecurity, lack of access to academic support services, and experiences of racism and discrimination. 

One of the great marvels of life is that no one experiences the same thing the same way as the next, as our lives are a culmination of our experiences, factors, and attributes not limited to mental, physical, spiritual, intellectual, social, occupational, financial, environmental, and mental. In doing so, we must also understand and interrupt our own unconscious bias that we all possess to help meet students where they are while challenging them to rise to their potential. Provide targeted resources and interventions to address these barriers, including financial aid and scholarship opportunities, academic advising and tutoring services, culturally responsive counseling and mental health support, and initiatives to promote equity and inclusion on campus. Additionally, advocate for policies and practices that dismantle systemic inequities and create a more supportive and inclusive campus environment for all students, regardless of race or background. 

By proactively addressing these challenges and providing tailored support, staff can help empower Black male students to thrive academically and achieve their goals. Establish safe and supportive spaces on campus where Black male students can connect with one another, share experiences, and find a sense of belonging. This could include affinity groups, student organizations, or dedicated spaces within existing campus resource centers. Encourage faculty and staff to actively engage with these students, listen to their concerns, and provide additional support as needed. By fostering a sense of community and belonging, you can help empower Black male students to succeed academically and thrive personally.

Gilliard Tip 2: Provide Mentorship and Guidance

Offer mentorship programs specifically tailored to the needs of Black male students. Assign students mentors who can offer academic, social, and career guidance, as well as provide support and encouragement. These mentors should understand the unique challenges and experiences that Black male students may face and be able to offer culturally relevant advice and assistance. 

Additionally, provide opportunities for peer mentoring, where successful Black male students can serve as role models and mentors for their peers. Pairing students with faculty, staff, or peer mentors who share similar backgrounds or experiences can provide invaluable guidance, encouragement, and support. These mentorship relationships can help students navigate academic challenges, set goals, access resources, and develop essential skills for success—both inside and outside the classroom. Additionally, fostering a sense of community through student organizations, support groups, and networking events can create spaces where Black male students feel understood, empowered, and connected to their peers and mentors.

Tomlin Tip 1: Be Real, Authentic, and You!

As a faculty member, what I’ve learned is that the Black male students I encounter are seeking genuine connection, relationship, and guidance. It does not serve me to be anyone except who I am. I pride myself on being authentic in all situations, circumstances, and environments. This realization has been particularly meaningful in my work with and support of Black male students. 

As a Black, gay male, I openly embrace all aspects of my identity with my students, especially my Black male students. I recognize that all of my identities contribute to who I am, and it’s the authenticity with which I present myself that my Black male students appreciate most. Therefore, I encourage my colleagues who are supporting Black male students to show up genuinely and authentically—while also holding themselves accountable for mistakes. As a human, I acknowledge that I don’t always get it right, and I often make mistakes in supporting my Black male students. However, I lean into modeling self-awareness and accountability to create spaces of safety, connection, and belonging for my students. 

To my colleagues, I encourage you to ask for help when needed, to be yourselves, and to remember that Black male students are the narrators of their own stories. They should be allowed the space to be as genuine and authentic as we strive to be with them. This simple tip can go a long way, as Black male students have a keen sense of detecting inauthenticity. Once they perceive someone as inauthentic, it’s challenging to regain their trust. Sometimes, you may only have one opportunity to connect with a Black male student, so it’s crucial to be mindful of every interaction and make that one attempt count.

Tomlin Tip 2: Show Up, Even When It’s Hard

In my experience as both a Black male student and a Black male educator, I’ve observed that many people tend to dismiss Black male students if they don’t excel academically or conform to a certain appearance associated with intelligence. We need to eradicate the biases, stereotypes, and stigmas attached to the perception that Black men don’t care enough or try hard enough to pursue education. 

Although it’s disheartening that I still need to address this in 2024, I’ve encountered colleagues seeking support because they struggle to assist their Black male students effectively. While I’m willing to help colleagues develop strategies for supporting their Black male students, I take issue with colleagues who make assumptions about why their Black male students are struggling, having sudden class absences, lack of communication, or poor performance on assignments. Many Black male students are accustomed to being judged, and educators’ perceived lack of motivation to help them succeed only reinforces these negative perceptions and experiences. 

Therefore, colleagues, when faced with challenges in supporting your Black male students, start by asking them what they need. While they may not always have a clear answer—or a concise way to articulate it—providing them with a space to share their experiences and obstacles can help dispel any assumptions we might inadvertently make based on preconceived notions. This approach isn’t difficult, but it’s often overlooked. So, the next time you’re supporting a Black male student, consider asking open-ended questions about how you can assist and give yourself the space to listen. Remember the importance of waiting, and if you find yourself talking too much or making assumptions, WAIT and ask yourself, “Why Am I Talking?” Sometimes, offering a listening ear is the most valuable form of support.

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC, is a tenured Associate Professor and Director of Academic Literacies Tutoring Center at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach. Feel free to reach out at or on X (Twitter) @Tomlinantione.

Kenneth Gilliard, MS, is a Student Success and Retention Advisor with the Student Achievement and Success Program at Anne Arundel Community College. Kenneth is also the President and CEO of his company, Gilliard and Co. LLC – Event Planner and Travel Agent.

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Between their teaching, service, and research efforts coupled with evaluations for tenure and review, faculty have a lot on their plate—and a lot to prove. It can be tough to capture and showcase the data to fully demonstrate faculty impact, and that burden often falls on faculty themselves. The University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNT HSC) found a way to harness that data with Interfolio in order to illuminate faculty excellence, streamline RPT processes, and showcase strategic plan achievements. 

Connecting the Faculty Data Dots 

With six schools specializing in patient-centered education, research, and health care, UNT HSC had a need for a centralized faculty activity reporting system that could provide a clear picture of the institution’s 300 faculty members. “We had data coming from all different places, and it was kind of up to the departments and chairs to collect the data for things like annual review or for the faculty member when came to promotion and tenure,” shared Nancy Staples, Academic & Business Manager in the Office of the Provost at UNT HSC. She also noted that the institution was working with a homegrown system for reviews that was difficult to work with, and files for promotion and tenure were being mailed on flash drives.  

“We had internal tracking on spreadsheets, and PeopleSoft has their rank and service time, but it didn’t have a full picture of any faculty members. It was very spread out,” said Staples. The institution sought a solution that could provide this complete snapshot of its faculty members in one location and made the decision to implement Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting (FAR) and Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure (RPT) to help streamline faculty processes.  

Saving Faculty and Administrators Time 

UNT HSC collects and activates data in FAR, which is used in tandem with the Interfolio Data Service. Using APIs, basic HR data is brought into the system from PeopleSoft, teaching data comes in from the registrar’s office, and additional feeds come in from the grants office. “With the Data Service, it pulls in more scholarly activity,” said Staples. These activities are already appropriately formatted, creating a much easier process for the institution’s faculty to simply click and accept to add activities to their profile. “Before, they had to go in and format it—it was a lot of tedious work,” she added.  

Maintaining accurate faculty data in a centralized location is also beneficial for reviews, as the vita is pulled directly from FAR into RPT. “Before the faculty member submits their case, they go in and review it to make sure that their activity reporting is correct,” noted Staples, “so what they put into their annual review is their truth.” In addition, the institution has templates for the promotion and tenure cases accessible through Interfolio’s Dossier. “Even five years out from a promotion, they can go and start building the case in Dossier,” said Staples. “And then when they are ready to go up, we just create their case, and they slide the information over from Dossier directly into their P&T case. I’ve seen a P&T case created and submitted within four days—they have all the information right there already set up.” 

Showcasing Faculty Impact With Web Profiles 

When it comes to showcasing faculty accomplishments, UNT HSC sets the bar high. “We have public-facing profiles that are fed from Faculty Activity Reporting,” noted Staples. “It’s an automatic feed—every night, it uploads to the profile, and they can go in at any time and look at it.” These profiles include a faculty member’s accomplishments, research, and academic details. As updates are made in FAR, these changes are reflected on their web profiles. “We allow it to be as much or as little as they want to publish.” 

Interfolio Faculty Web Profiles is a new addition to our leading Faculty Information System, allowing academic leaders to activate existing data to benefit both their scholars and their institution. Integrating with FAR and the Interfolio Data Service, our web profiles solution is the easiest way to highlight the holistic impact of your scholars across their service, teaching, and research accomplishments. Automatically search, ingest, and deduplicate 280 million records and conference proceedings published in over 60,000 sources to create faculty profiles quickly and seamlessly. Faculty regain valuable working hours, enabling them to spend time on higher-impact activities. 

Watch the on-demand webinar to hear more about how UNT HSC activates data to illuminate faculty impact. If you’d like to find out how Interfolio Web Profiles can help increase the public visibility of your scholars, contact us today for a demo.

A diverse faculty body brings a range of experiences and backgrounds to their roles as educators and researchers; they represent multiple races, ethnicities, genders, ages, sexual orientations, and abilities, and they exhibit unique scholarly interests, viewpoints, and teaching and learning styles. 

Faculty diversity has been shown to positively affect student outcomes, including increasing retention and graduation rates. To best serve student needs, an institution’s faculty should reflect the student population, from race and gender to sexual orientation. But according to data from the American Council on Education (ACE), over one-third of higher education students are Black, Latinx, or Native American—and only 11% of faculty reflect those populations. As of 2018, roughly 76% of faculty at postsecondary institutions were white. 

As student bodies become more diverse, many colleges and universities recognize the importance of improving faculty diversity and have put robust plans in place around diversity, equity, and inclusion—but how many are realizing their goals? 

The Benefits of a Diverse Faculty 

Research shows that faculty diversity in higher education supports the success of students from underrepresented groups as well as all students’ intercultural competence.  

The positive effects of a diverse faculty are clear: 

  • In institutions where a majority of faculty are white, students of color may see Black and Latinx professors as role models or mentors, increasing their sense of belonging. 
  • Female students report feeling like they receive more help and support from female faculty. 
  • Black students in STEM courses taught by Black instructors are more likely to stick with STEM after their first year. 
  • Faculty diversity can also lead to a greater variety of scholarship and research, expanding societal knowledge and understanding. 

While the benefits are apparent, institutions are still struggling with recruiting, hiring, and retaining diverse faculty members. 

How to Increase Faculty Diversity in Higher Education 

ACE points to three areas of focus for institutions seeking to improve faculty diversity: 1) attractiveness of faculty positions; 2) hiring, tenure, and promotion processes; and 3) departmental and campus climates for faculty of color. 

To meet these objectives, it is key that institutions ensure campus-wide commitment to diversity efforts, improve hiring practices, and support the success of faculty from underrepresented groups. 

Ensuring Campus-Wide Commitment to Faculty Diversity 

While making faculty diversity a priority is an essential first step, in order to effect lasting change, higher education administrators and department chairs should weave their institution’s commitment to faculty diversity into strategic plans and mission statements, as well as institutional policies. 

For example, institutional policies relating to faculty workloads and faculty review, promotion, and tenure need to be reexamined in light of how they impact faculty diversity. Institutions may need to adjust these policies to better support the retention of underrepresented groups and promote equitable faculty workloads.   

To keep diversity goals top of mind, administrators should also remind community members of their institution’s diversity goals by reaffirming them during campus talks and meetings—and by making them part of any long-term strategy discussion.  

Another essential part of realizing this commitment to faculty diversity is making specific changes to hiring practices. 

Five Hiring Practices to Increase Faculty Diversity 

Faculty affairs administrators and departments can actualize their institution’s faculty diversity goals by taking five important steps in faculty hiring:  

1. Set department-based goals for diversity and inclusion 

The first step each department should take is to discuss long-term goals related to faculty diversity and inclusion in hiring. This involves assessing past successes and failures to inform practices going forward and determining ways that faculty recruitment and selection processes can be more inclusive. 

For example, for business schools that lack faculty from underrepresented groups, departments might discuss dropping the requirement of a Ph.D. for tenure-track candidates and instead consider candidates based on their business experience or possession of an MBA. 

2. Elect an inclusive search committee 

Gather search committees for open positions that include faculty from underrepresented groups that you hope to reach. If you struggle to find those members within your department, reach out to other departments to achieve an inclusive search committee. 

3. Develop a broad recruitment plan 

The hiring manager and search committee for any open position should develop a plan focused on attracting a large and diverse pool of applicants. This should include identifying resources that ensure the wide distribution of the position announcement.  

Search committees can’t simply place an ad and sit back; they must actively seek out diverse candidates by tapping into professional networks and industry organizations to increase their reach. Committee members should also seek out specific organizations, websites, and publications that specialize in recruiting diverse faculty members. 

UC Davis’s ADVANCE initiative, which seeks to increase the number of women in STEM careers, recommends that hiring committees take advantage of industry listservs, email groups, and registries. UNC Charlotte’s similar ADVANCE program also offers a list of resources for finding underrepresented faculty candidates. 

4. Create an inclusive job listing 

The job advertisement should clearly indicate your institution’s commitment to equity and diversity. Research shows that this practice is more likely to result in the hiring of a candidate from an underrepresented group. 

In addition, define the position in the broadest possible terms consistent with the department’s needs. Try not to rely on overly narrow experience requirements and instead indicate your openness to non-traditional career experiences and pathways. For example, if you are hiring a professor of public policy, you might note in the posting that you are open to candidates with extensive public policy experience and that you do not require a master’s degree or Ph.D. 

Ensure job announcements reach a broad audience by including outlets such as minority-serving publications, listservs, bulletin boards, and blogs. For example, you will likely want to post on the DiversityTrio job boards, which receive high traffic from faculty candidates from diverse backgrounds. 

5. Monitor the recruitment plan 

Once the hiring plan has been implemented, it’s critical that you monitor the diversity of the candidate pool while the submission window is open, not after. Committees should be able to monitor applicant data in real time so they can increase efforts to attract candidates from underrepresented groups and ensure the institution’s diversity goals stay on track.  

Supporting Faculty Members From Underrepresented Groups 

To attract and retain a diverse faculty, an institution must provide an appealing, supportive, and beneficial environment for scholars from underrepresented groups.  

Look at your institutional policies relating to faculty workloads and promotion; in many instances, the distribution of labor may not be equal for women and faculty members of color. Invisible labor often doesn’t lead to promotion or tenure, and it can cause faculty to burn out and leave the institution entirely. It’s essential to take note of these inequities and create an inclusive culture with practices that support faculty members from underrepresented groups. Detailed faculty data reporting can make it easier to spot these inequities and track each professor’s workload and path to promotion or tenure. 

Another way to support faculty is by creating mentorship programs dedicated to underrepresented groups or specific departments. For example, Black faculty in predominantly white schools may feel disconnected—both from each other and the institution as a whole. An institution can better encourage the success of its Black faculty by establishing communities where they feel welcome and valued. 

Your institution may also want to pursue discussions and relationships with local and national minority organizations and other associations that focus on strategies for supporting faculty members from underrepresented groups. These organizations could include the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education, the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, and the Association on Higher Education and Disability.  

Digital Tools to Help You Deliver on Faculty Diversity 

The Interfolio Faculty Information System can support your efforts to increase faculty diversity at every stage of the hiring process and beyond. 

Trying to recruit a diverse pool of candidates? Faculty Search enables you to assess your applications during the submission window and intervene if the pool is not diverse enough using real-time, self-reported, anonymous demographic survey responses from 100% of applicants. 

In addition, if your search committee has devised specific evaluation criteria, such as whether candidates offer real-world experience, Faculty Search enables you to make that custom criteria part of your digital workflow. 

As you hire more faculty members from underrepresented groups, Interfolio’s Review, Promotion & Tenure software can help you support them using a documented review process that increases consistency and transparency. In addition, Interfolio’s Faculty Activity Reporting module makes it easy for faculty to document activities relating to student support, service, and diversity. 

Need Additional Help? 

Download Interfolio’s Best Practices Checklist: Achieving Diversity Across the Academic Lifecycle to see whether you’ve adopted the best strategies for recruiting and retaining diverse faculty candidates. 

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD headshot

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor and Director of Academic Literacies Tutoring Center

Anne Arundel Community College

Dr. Candice Strachan headshot

Dr. Candice Strachan

Educational Researcher & Consultant

Ministry of Education, Bahamas

As March unfolds, with its whirlwind of activities for both faculty and graduate students, it becomes crucial to carve out moments for self-reflection, effective self-care, and a mindful centering amidst the chaos. The looming threat of burnout is ever-present, capable of unraveling the fruits of hard labor over days, months, or even years. Join me, a faculty member and dissertation chair, as I collaborate with the insightful Dr. Candice Strachan, a former doctoral student. Together, we unveil many tips, strategies, and pearls of wisdom to guide both faculty and graduate students through the bustling demands of this season, ensuring they navigate the storm without succumbing to the perilous grip of burnout.

Student Tip #1: Consistency and Sacrifice Are Key 

Consistency and sacrifice are indispensable components for graduate students aiming to excel in their academic pursuits. Maintaining a steady dedication to your studies, research, and other commitments is crucial. Consistency ensures steady progress toward your goals and aids in avoiding the pitfalls of procrastination or inconsistency that can hinder your advancement. 

Additionally, sacrifice plays a significant role in the journey of a graduate student. This often involves prioritizing academic responsibilities over leisure activities, social events, or personal time. Sacrifices may include late nights in the library or at home, foregoing weekend outings to focus on research, or allocating resources towards educational expenses rather than discretionary spending. 

By embracing consistency and sacrifice, graduate students demonstrate their commitment to academic excellence and increase their chances of achieving their desired outcomes, whether it be completing their degree, publishing research, or securing career opportunities in their field. These qualities will help you navigate the challenges of graduate school with resilience and determination, ultimately contributing to your success in academia and beyond.

Faculty Support Suggestion: As mentors guiding doctoral students, we understand the hard journey they undertake. Depending on the stage of life and the doctoral process, it can be taxing and draining for both mentors and students alike. In our roles as faculty advisors, it’s crucial to engage in candid yet supportive dialogues with our students about the resilience, dedication, and sacrifices required to complete a terminal degree. However, it’s equally important to reflect on our own challenges during our doctoral journeys. While each path is unique, we must remember the hurdles we overcame and the support systems that sustained us. Even though we may have transitioned from student to mentor, our commitment to holistic student support remains unwavering, recognizing that life continues outside the confines of the doctoral program. 

Colleagues, let’s strike a balance between providing challenge and support while remaining mindful of our own expectations and frustrations. By doing so, we can foster an environment where students thrive, knowing they have a dedicated support network guiding them every step of the way.

Student Tip #2: Celebrate Along the Way

Celebrating milestones and achievements along the way is essential for maintaining balance and sustaining motivation as a graduate student. Pursuing an advanced degree is a demanding and often arduous journey, characterized by long hours of study, research, and academic rigor. Amidst the challenges and pressures, it’s crucial for graduate students to take moments to acknowledge their progress and accomplishments. 

Celebrating milestones can take various forms, from acknowledging the completion of a challenging assignment or exam to commemorating the acceptance of a research paper for publication. These celebrations provide opportunities for graduate students to reflect on their hard work and dedication, reinforcing their sense of accomplishment and boosting their morale. Moreover, celebrating along the way serves as a reminder that the journey toward earning a graduate degree is not solely about reaching the end goal but also about enjoying the process and recognizing personal growth and development along the way. It helps to break the monotony of academic work, prevent burnout, and foster a positive mindset.

By incorporating celebrations into their academic journey, graduate students can cultivate a sense of balance between their academic pursuits and personal well-being. Whether it’s a small gathering with friends, a special dinner, a quick destination trip, or a moment of quiet reflection, these celebrations provide valuable opportunities for rejuvenation, connection, and self-appreciation amidst the rigors of graduate studies. Ultimately, they contribute to a more fulfilling and sustainable experience as a graduate student.

Faculty Support Suggestion: I wholeheartedly advocate for my students to embrace celebration at every juncture of their doctoral journey. Whether it’s acknowledging small victories with micro-celebrations or marking major milestones with grand events, each step closer to completing their terminal degree merits recognition. It’s essential for my students to understand that no accomplishment in this process should be trivialized. We often emphasize that if obtaining a terminal degree were effortless, it would not be the esteemed achievement it is. I remind my students that they are embarking on a path that not everyone has the want, courage, or determination to pursue, let alone complete. Therefore, every advancement, regardless of its size, deserves to be celebrated. 

Colleagues, I urge you to challenge your students to embrace celebration more. Let’s instill in them the understanding that a triumph, no matter how small, is still a triumph worth commemorating. After all, in this demanding journey, every win is a testament to their resilience and dedication, and in many ways, ours too!

Student Tip #3: Unhealthy Habits Must Go 

Eliminating unhealthy habits is imperative for graduate students. As you navigate the demands of advanced academic pursuits, maintaining good physical and mental health becomes paramount. Unhealthy habits such as poor diet, lack of exercise, inadequate sleep, excessive stress, and procrastination can hinder academic performance, jeopardize well-being, and impede progress toward academic and professional goals. 

Healthy lifestyle choices directly impact cognitive function, energy levels, and overall resilience in managing the rigors of graduate school. Establishing routines that prioritize nutritious meals, regular physical activity, sufficient sleep, and stress-management techniques can enhance focus, productivity, and overall well-being. Moreover, addressing unhealthy habits contributes to better mental health outcomes. Graduate students often face high levels of stress, anxiety, and pressure to perform, which can exacerbate mental health challenges if not properly addressed. 

By cultivating healthy coping mechanisms, seeking support when needed, and prioritizing self-care, students can mitigate the negative effects of stress and maintain emotional resilience throughout their academic journey. Furthermore, breaking free from unhealthy habits fosters a positive mindset and promotes personal growth. Overcoming challenges associated with unhealthy behaviors requires commitment, discipline, and self-awareness. By replacing detrimental habits with positive alternatives, graduate students can cultivate a sense of empowerment, self-control, and self-efficacy, which are essential attributes for success in academia and beyond. 

Faculty Support Suggestion: The advice provided above isn’t solely for our students; it’s equally pertinent for us as faculty advisors. We must discard outdated practices that view the doctoral journey as an initiation or hazing ritual. It’s imperative to move away from the mindset of “I had to earn mine the hard way, so you should too.” Instead, we should approach this process with empathy and unwavering support for our students, ensuring we don’t replicate any traumatic experiences we may have encountered with our own advisors. 

Reflecting on my own doctoral journey, I’m grateful for the supportive chairs who not only guided me academically but also became invaluable colleagues and mentors. While we may not form friendships with every student, we must recognize that upon completion, they become our professional peers. Therefore, it’s essential to treat them with respect throughout their journey and beyond. Colleagues, I challenge you to shift away from this mindset and provide the love and support our students need to thrive. Clear communication is key in this process; we must articulate our expectations to students, ensuring they understand what is required of them. By establishing clarity, we can reduce stress and frustration levels for everyone involved, fostering a more supportive and productive environment.

Student Tip #4: Join/Form a Support Group

Joining or forming a support group is invaluable for graduate students facing the rigors of advanced academia. These groups foster camaraderie, providing a space to share experiences, advice, resources, and encouragement. They combat the isolation often felt in graduate school, offering social connection and community-building. 

Moreover, support groups facilitate mutual assistance, collaboration, and emotional support, aiding students in overcoming obstacles and navigating challenges with resilience. Additionally, they serve as a source of accountability and motivation, helping students stay focused on their academic goals. Furthermore, support groups offer professional networking opportunities, enabling collaboration on research projects and providing insights into various career paths. Support groups offer social support, academic assistance, motivation, and networking opportunities, enhancing the graduate student experience and boosting success in academia and beyond.

Faculty Support Suggestion: Colleagues, it’s crucial to recognize that while you’re providing invaluable support to your students throughout their doctoral journey, you don’t have to shoulder this responsibility alone. Balancing teaching assignments, research, and mentoring alongside other work commitments can be demanding. While it’s essential to be present and available for your students with clear boundaries, it’s equally important to acknowledge that you’re not their sole source of support, nor should you be. 

Encourage your students to seek community beyond yourself and their immediate family. Creating additional spaces for community and a sense of belongingness and togetherness can alleviate the burden for everyone involved. Facilitate connections among your students and empower them to cultivate supportive, nurturing, and safe environments where they can thrive. 

Furthermore, don’t forget to seek out your own support networks. While I’ve emphasized the importance of supporting your students, I recognize that mentoring doctoral students is demanding and requires a considerable amount of effort and dedication. Remember to prioritize your own well-being and seek out support systems that can provide you with the encouragement and assistance you need to navigate this challenging yet rewarding journey that is a labor of love.

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenured Associate Professor and Director of Academic Literacies Tutoring Center at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach. Feel free to reach out at or on X (Twitter) @Tomlinantione.

Candice D. Strachan, EdD, completed her EdD in the Urban Educational Leadership program at Morgan State University. Dr. Strachan has served as an Educational Researcher & Consultant at the Ministry of Education in the Bahamas. Feel free to reach out via email at

Build Your Dossier With Interfolio.
Advance With Confidence.

Applying for academic programs or positions requires many artifacts. Put your best foot forward with Interfolio.

Start building your dossier for free today.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

With another year of SXSW EDU in the books, what are some takeaways for higher education? After hearing expert insights at various panels, here’s a perspective into what higher education might expect to see in the year ahead. 


Equity was a recurring theme in each panel attended—whether AI, from a legislative perspective, or on-campus realities.  

When thinking about “Equity Concerns in AI & Education,” the speakers urged consideration and understanding of the holistic environment; it’s not just what interface you use, but the unseen parts of the system: the underlying dataset, who trained it, and how it was trained. These latter parts are often not disclosed, and this poses quite a lot of risk for equity. Stephanie Miller, VP of Data and Impact at Axim Collaborative, cited the demographics of EdTech leaders compared to those of Black and Latinx computer science students as an example of how we need more representative voices in all parts of technology. It’s something Miller is actively addressing as an adjunct professor of Data Science at Bowie State University, where she mentors students and advocates for graduate school.  If AI is seen to be the next equalizer, as education was by Horace Mann, the panel reiterated the need for access to the internet, tools, and training—in this case, AI literacy—from K-12 onward. 

In terms of addressing equity on campus, the “How Colleges Can Overcome Anti-Diversity Headwinds” panel cited 81 bills that would curtail DEI, eight of which have been passed into law, as noted by the Chronicle of Higher Education’s tracker. Dr. Shaun Harper, Provost Professor at the USC Rossier School of Education and USC Marshall School of Business, mentioned how these attacks on DEI are not new, and how DEI has long been underfunded. He mentioned how these trends apply to community colleges too, with faculty often not reflecting the diversity of the student population. Harper and Mushtaq Gunja, Senior Vice President at the American Council on Education, also pointed out how the military academies advocated and successfully negotiated an exemption from the Supreme Court ruling for race-conscious admissions

Community Activism 

Many of the panels discussed how individuals can make a difference. On “Equity Concerns in AI & Education,” Sara Schwettmann, Research Scientist at MIT’s CSAIL, discussed the visibility you need into the technology and recommended individuals sync up with their tech teams for AI use case hack-a-thons, making sure that a diverse set of participants gives input.  

Echoing these sentiments during his panel, Gunja recommended starting with your immediate sphere of influence, e.g., if you are a teacher or parent, start with your principal, then the local school board, then the state, etc. Harper also encouraged organizing as a coalition and movement, as it’s a well-funded anti-DEI campaign, with the language of the bills getting more specific and sophisticated.  

Student Centricity 

With planning the evolution of the Carnegie Classifications, Gunja wants to bring students to the forefront of university classifications. He is looking to add measures about the student experience, not just types of degrees offered, but considerations for: 

  • Social-economic mobility and post-graduate earnings 
  • Institutions educating students from their region 
  • Enrollment of Pell grant recipients and first-generation college students 
  • Graduation rates 

In her panel, Denise Forte, CEO & President of The Education Trust, wondered how we could introduce concepts of racial campus climate, civil rights, and basic needs of students into accreditation to really see the holistic quality of an institution. 

In terms of bringing student needs forward, Forte noted that learners have changed, but policy (like the Higher Education Act) and institutions haven’t kept up. She also highlighted the ongoing need for greater mental health resources for students on campus. Dr. Yolanda Watson Spiva, President of Complete College America, built on this idea, stating that universities must move toward a focus on students and student-centered learning in light of statistics that show that 50% of adults with BAs are underemployed. 

Change and Uncertainty 

Posed with the question of what may happen with the upcoming election, Forte mentioned possible impacts to program funding and a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  Watson Spiva posited that there might be more scrutiny around the loan forgiveness program and the short-term Pell Grant bill proposal. Dr. Steven Taylor, Senior Fellow for Higher Education at Stand Together Trust, noted the ongoing conversation about the affordability of a traditional four-year degree, debt forgiveness, and institutional accountability for the $1.7 trillion of student debt. He also wondered if models such as “earn and learn” or “work, earn, and learn” would be considered, instead of the current federal funding model that prioritizes the four-year college pathway.  

Accreditation was a surprisingly prevalent topic, as discussion of federal funding continued, since universities must be accredited to receive Title IV aid. Taylor mentioned how this makes it different for new models of education to be introduced, funded, and successful. Forte discussed accreditation and DEI, with the need for more diverse individuals to be participants in the site visits and the assessment.   

In a Shark Tank-inspired session, entrepreneurs and academics presented their ideas for changing and improving education. The pitches ranged from how to provide psychological support for law students, match high school students with their best-fit four-year college, give business students a “MasterClass” curricular experience, and build empathetic skills of high school students with experiential learning. The presenters got feedback from a team of three experts, but alas, no funding was given out in this session!  

Effect on Faculty 

But how will these macro challenges impact faculty? Watson Spiva noted that state appropriations could mean budget cuts, and she could anticipate more of the advising load falling on faculty versus staff advisors. Taylor mentioned that if there is a shift to competency-based assessments versus course credits, faculty may need to adopt different measures to assess students and their work.  

In addition, higher education could see changes to curriculum and identity-based academic programs. Harper stated that with the dismantling of DEI offices, more of that work is falling onto Employee Resource Groups and “free” labor versus staff members—and that could mean more service work for underrepresented faculty and staff who are already overburdened.  

While many of these issues are already top-of-mind for academic leaders, it’s always valuable to look ahead and get new perspectives on the impacts of technology, elections, and proposed legislation.  

 We look forward to continuing these conversations throughout the year at other conferences, our own Interfolio Summit, and 1:1 with our clients.  

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