Voices from Campus

No two campuses are the same, and faculty members have various reasons for choosing where they live and work. For diverse faculty, the decision can be especially significant. Here, some reflect on why they chose to be where they are and why they stay.

Mel Freitag, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

“I have always felt supported and accepted in Madison, but I am a cis white woman who can pass as straight. For my partner and others who are underrepresented in terms of race and gender identity, their experiences have been quite different. Madison is very accepting, for the most part, of LGBTQ identities, but I’m speaking from a very privileged position as a white woman. I’ve talked to a variety of people of color who say that race is their first emergency and that being gay, at least in Madison, does not threaten their safety and survival. For that reason, I have mixed emotions for deciding to stay in Madison. However, with the current national climate, it is hard to say if anywhere is safe if you are a person who is marked as different from the white, cis, straight model of identities.”

Yvette Huet, PhD
Professor of Kinesiology and Director of ADVANCE Faculty Affairs and the Diversity Office at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte

“I chose to take the position at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) because of family considerations; my husband was offered a job here. I stayed, initially, because I found UNCC to be a good place to work while also having a family. UNCC has a diverse student body and serves a large number of lower-income, first-generation students, and we are located in a state with a growing minority population. In more recent years, I have stayed because I have had the continuing opportunity to effect change at UNCC, to help make it a more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming institution. I have learned that while we may believe other places must be better, in reality, no institution is perfect and should work to change its climate. UNCC has administrators, faculty, and staff who are interested in making UNCC a better place for everyone and are willing to put time and effort toward these changes. I believe we are unique, and I welcome the opportunity to continue here with my colleagues in this very important work.”

Rabbi Meir Muller, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Instruction and Teacher Education and Early Childhood Education at the University of South Carolina

“As the only Orthodox Jewish faculty member at the University of South Carolina (USC) and, at the time of my hiring, the only Jewish person in my department, I found the department to be very accommodating with my religious obligations not to work on Jewish holidays or Saturdays (Jewish Sabbath), and my dietary restrictions. While this is appreciated, I fully recognize that Judaism is a privileged minority, and hence I, as a rabbi, am the beneficiary of that privilege. I feel — as do many of my colleagues and administrators — that our department and university have to work harder in a number of areas when it comes to diversity. These include recruiting and retaining colleagues and students of color, achieving diversity in issues of faculty governance, access to a diverse curriculum, and embracing diversity in community engagement and partnerships. While steps have been taken in each area, we still have much work to do. I look forward to a future where USC broadens [this] work, leading to a more racially equitable institution.”

Aliza Wong, PhD
Associate Dean of the Honors College and Associate Professor of History at Texas Tech University

“Like many academics, I didn’t choose my institution. Faculty members, especially those in the humanities, do not often have the luxury of selecting their home universities or preferred cities. As a woman of color, I knew exactly what stereotypes could lie before me as a spousal accommodation, yet at the same time, I ‘earned’ the position with a job talk, publications, Fulbright, and teaching awards. The department and Texas Tech never treated me as a spousal accommodation. I have been respected as a faculty member, a voice for the humanities, and an activist for diversity. This does not mean that I have not faced obstacles or come up against colleagues who cannot see beyond my gender, ethnicity, or spousal accommodation. But I believe firmly that we are given opportunities — sometimes to build on existing programs — to thrive off the energy of those who have already forged paths, and other times to be the trailblazers, to be those who create space for a diversity of experiences, a multiplicity of perspectives. Texas Tech helped me to mature into my philosophies on inclusiveness, to redefine my understanding of privilege, and to introduce new modes of engaging the university community in the difficult dialogues on social justice and diversity.”