Q&A with Lori Baker, Ph.D.

April 20, 2021

Q&A with Lori Baker, Ph.D.

Spotlighting work going on among Baylor's faculty to continue building a culture of justice and equity.

Q: What is your role at the University?

I am the vice provost for faculty development and diversity. My role as a faculty advocate started when I became a member of the Faculty Senate and expanded when I became chair of the Senate and later the Faculty Regent. Supporting our faculty well is critical to enabling them to thrive and do what they do best — conducting incredible research and providing transformational education and mentorship to our students.

Part of my role is listening to the faculty to know what is going well and where there is room for improvement. We have done this by creating the Campus Climate Survey that launched first in 2017 and by joining the Collaborative On Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) and being a part of both of their surveys. These tools give the faculty an anonymous way to tell us about their experiences, whether good or bad. We can then see if different members of our community are having different experiences and begin to address disparities.

In recent years, we have been most focused on faculty hiring for a number of reasons. Our faculty diversity should be a reflection of our student diversity. This will take time to build, and we must all work together to recruit the very best and brightest faculty to Baylor. How we hire this year will impact Baylor for decades. It is one of the most important things we do. We also have to think about how we facilitate faculty members’ success once they are here on campus.

Q: It is abundantly clear that in order to build a just and equitable culture at Baylor, we need to invest particularly in those who have been historically underrepresented in our midst. I think particularly of women, racial and ethnic minorities, veterans and others. What are some ways you support these faculty?

We are thinking about support in a comprehensive manner, as well as across the career span of our faculty. Through the survey tools mentioned before, we have been able to understand the most pressing issues for female faculty, faculty with disabilities, racial and ethnic minority faculty members and others. Four working groups were established this spring to make prioritized recommendations to Provost Nancy Brickhouse. These working groups are examining data from the surveys, as well as additional University data, to better understand the current state on campus, and they are meeting with additional faculty and administrators to refine our understanding and to consider next steps and recommendations. Their work will conclude in July when they submit their recommendations to the provost.

Q: Culture change only happens with the shifting of people, policies and processes. What might that work look like at Baylor, particularly in the Provost’s Office?

We know that increasing faculty diversity through inclusive recruitment and hiring practices is a crucial first step for a culture change and that it is only a first step. We transitioned our paper/manual faculty search and hiring process to an online, cloud-based platform called Interfolio. This change has allowed us to build in workflow and review that was not previously possible. In particular, we have added information that is shared with the entire search committee as they undertake their work. Institutional Research has compiled a range of information in a Hiring Report that will be specific to each discipline and shared in Interfolio, such as:

  • Data about the last five years of hiring for the department, with specifics of the number of women, people of color and nonresident alien faculty hired.
  • Data about the number of doctorates earned by women and people of color for the discipline over the last five years.
  • And data about Baylor's hiring over the last five years of women and people of color in comparison with private R1 and R2 institutions and public R1 and R2 institutions.

There is also now a review of the search committee composition and the search plan that should include information about recruitment and advertising. We are requiring the search chair to submit a more detailed search report of what was actually done in the search regarding recruitment and the subsequent evaluation of candidates. As part of this, the applicant pool can now be reviewed for approval by the department chair, the dean, and the Provost's Office through the tools available in the Interfolio system. Approval of the search pool is a new part of the process, and the assessment includes an analysis of the diversity, quality and quantity of the applicants in light of the pipeline information provided at the beginning of the search. We also are working on new search committee training opportunities, toolkits and guides to assist our faculty in using the best practices for inclusive recruiting.

In addition, every department has been engaged over the last year in reviewing and, in some cases, revising their tenure and promotion guidelines to ensure they accurately reflect expectations and practices in the process. In particular, many departments have lacked guidelines for the promotion from associate professor to full professor, which has created an obstacle for faculty to advance in their career and which can disproportionately impact those who are underrepresented. We also have had a number of workshops on the best practices to support faculty throughout their career lifecycle with a focus on midcareer faculty.

The last thing I will mention is partnering with the Race Equity Institute for data-driven workshops on institutional racial equity. The first step in our community is to recognize that our policies and practices may perpetuate bias and inequitably affect members of our Baylor family.

Q: How can the Baylor community partner with you in your work?

We need to constantly ask ourselves, "How are other faculty experiencing Baylor. How are we determining who we are inviting to join our faculty, and how are we supporting and empowering each other for success?" I invite our faculty and administrators to reach out to me when they have ideas and opportunities for innovation that we can consider or when they encounter challenges. We are a community of experts, and together we can create something much better than we can do alone.