Faculty Diversity Hiring Initiatives

From Dr. Jean Morrison, University Provost and Chief Academic Officer

Boston University is committed to the highest levels of intellectual and creative achievement and to developing a world-class faculty that requires and actively reflects an increased breadth of cultural, racial, and social diversity. As enumerated in our University Diversity Statement, BU “strive(s) to create environments for learning, working, and living that are enriched by racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. Success in a competitive, global milieu depends upon our ongoing commitment to welcome and engage the wisdom, creativity, and aspirations of all peoples.”

Accordingly, over the past several years, we have made a concerted effort to increase the diversity of our faculty with particular emphasis on groups historically underrepresented in the academy and at Boston University. Since 2015, I have included data on the diversity of our faculty in key presentations to the faculty, including at Faculty Assembly and in annual presentations to University Council. The data paint a complex picture. We are making important advances through building awareness, revising search practices and policies, and through important leadership efforts of the academic deans. However, projections suggest that without additional support and resources to further inculcate best practices in our current approaches to faculty searches, extending existing and developing new and fruitful networks, and normalizing the inclusion within the schools/colleges and departments of a diverse group of scholars, especially those from historically underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, our most ambitious goals will be short-lived.

With that in mind, we have developed two programs intended to further assist our search efforts, enliven curricular discussions, provide flexibility in searches where appropriate, and serve as a resource to better enable faculty in its collective efforts to diversify our faculty ranks. These new programs are the University Scholars Program and the Target of Opportunity Program. The Office of the Provost has committed up to $10 million over the next five years to support these and related diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

Full programmatic descriptions are available on the Associate Provost for Diversity & Inclusion’s website.


The University Scholars Program seeks to normalize the inclusion within schools/colleges and departments of scholars who are underrepresented in the academy, including scholars from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups; enliven our curricula and intellectual/creative endeavors through the consistent and substantive engagement with such emerging and leading faculty; and extend and strengthen our national and international networks, thereby deepening our search pools and positively impacting our search outcomes. It comprises three distinct elements:

  • The Emerging Scholars Program, which supports individuals or groups of emerging scholars from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups through various means—single day symposia, multiple-day mini conferences, multiple-day visits, etc.;
  • The Visiting Senior Scholars Program, which supports eminent scholars who support the University’s strategic goals of developing a diverse, world-class community of scholars and makers for visits of varying lengths (i.e.: multiple day visits up to a semester-long residency); and
  • The Great Topics Program, which supports important conversations among leading thinkers/makers about issues explicitly related to race and/or diversity.

The Target of Opportunity Program seeks to provide nimbleness and flexibility in hiring and to allow academic leadership to capitalize on potential hires that represent an extraordinary opportunity for the University to support the above stated goals. The Target of Opportunity (ToO) Hiring Program comprises two distinct tools: the ToO Mechanism and the ToO New Lines Program.

  • The Target of Opportunity Mechanism is a tool that provides much needed flexibility and allows hiring departments that have been allocated a search under the existing process to identify, target, and recruit faculty who support the University’s diversity goals. Examples of how this mechanism might be enacted include:
    • Reallocation of existing lines to enable an unanticipated hire;
    • Reallocation of existing lines where a retirement line exists; and
    • Undertaking an extended (2-year) search during which the first year is used to engage in significant and strategic activities meant to deepen the pool and build key networks (such as the University Scholars Program) without worry that the line will be retracted or that the department will have to seek approval for the search in the second year.
  • The ToO New Lines Program involves the creation of new faculty slots and may be used in the very rare case when a candidate emerges that provides a truly extraordinary and highly unusual opportunity to support the University’s strategic goals of developing a diverse, world-class faculty. This program should not be considered a method by which to increase the department’s faculty size, particularly in relation to ongoing searches. Rather, it is meant to address nearly insurmountable challenges posed by the field/pipeline and/or as an opportunity to hire a candidate that brings nearly incalculable value by virtue of their stature and/or potential to the University.

We consider these programs and tools part of a holistic attempt to more fully support the ongoing efforts of departments to align to the University’s goals as stated above.


Resources for these programs will be primarily focused on departments/programs where unmodified professorial faculty are the norm. However, in exceptional circumstances, proposals from departments/programs where lecturer and modified positions are the norm may be considered.


The Office of the Provost will support the University Scholars Program at 50% cost-share with schools/college, up to $200K per year, and the Target of Opportunity Program on a case-by-case basis.


In accordance with the hiring process, all proposals should be first submitted to the Dean of the school/college, and, if it is in keeping with the strategic priorities of the school/college, the Dean will recommend the proposal or multiple proposals to the Office of the Provost for consideration.

DEADLINES (for additional details, please see program documents)

University Scholars Program

  • Emerging Scholars Program
    • May 31, 2019 deadline: departmental proposals due to the Dean.
      Because of the time of the year of this announcement, the deadlines for this program will be much later than they will be in subsequent years, which we hope will allow for more planning on behalf of departments/programs.
    • AY ’19-’20 and beyond: late January
  • Visiting Senior Scholars Program: rolling, on a case-by-case basis
  • Great Topics Program: rolling, on a case-by-case basis

Target of Opportunity Hiring Program
Because this program is tied to the hiring cycle, there is no deadline. Engagements with the ToO program—whether the ToO Mechanism or ToO New Line program—will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Associate Provost for Diversity & Inclusion Crystal Williams will be hosting three information sessions open to all faculty who have questions and/or would like to review ideas and timelines. They are:

  • Thursday, May 2, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm. RSVP here

Faculty Diversity Hiring Initiatives – 4.30.19