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Mass. minority professor program marks 20th year

Russell Contreras

Just a few weeks ago, Javier Bermudez Reveron was too shy to lead discussions on the works of French philosopher Michel Foucault.

It wasn’t that the 21-year-old senior at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras didn’t understand the material. He was just unsure about public speaking and expressing himself confidently.

After completing an intensive four-week program at a well-known New England prep school that trains black, Latino and Asian students with potential as college professors, Reveron is not only leading discussions but also is looking to have his own classroom one day.

“Absolutely it has given me more confidence,” Reveron said after taking part in the Phillips Academy Institute for Recruitment of Teachers in Andover, Mass.

The institute, celebrating its 20th year, introduced 65 college students last week to recruiters from top graduate schools including Harvard, Yale and Stanford. Some were part of the latest batch of potential teachers the Andover program trained through summer classes in an effort to diversify faculty at the nation’s top colleges, high schools and elementaries.

“I knew there was such a dire need for people of color to be represented in teaching in universities and high schools,” said Kelly Wise, the institute’s executive director and founder. “I wanted to create this program to really feed public institutions.”

Even after 20 years, diversity among faculty members still remains a concern, Wise said. According to the American Council on Education, blacks and Latinos make up 9 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty at universities nationwide. Census estimates say blacks and Latinos make up about 28 percent of the nation’s population.

Since 1990, the institute has helped hundreds of students of color become teachers, officials say.

More than 100 former students have completed their doctorates and more than 500 have completed their master’s degrees, said Clement White, a Spanish professor at the University of Rhode Island who teaches at the summer workshops. The students enter a variety of different fields, including the sciences, history, sociology and education, White said.

The institute now accepts white and Asian students who also are committed to diversifying faculty.

Under the program, students undergo intensive training by reading the works of theorist and social critics like Foucault and Gloria Anzaldua, White said. They are also critiqued on how they answer questions, lead discussions and respond to criticism.

“We interrogate them. We challenge them,” White said. “They also take GRE classes. They are constantly engaged and in discussions.”

Mayra Canizales, of Hayward, Calif., a 2007 graduate of the program and now a faculty member, said she had no intention of leaving California before she took part in the program.

Afterward, she was so motivated that she got a master’s degree in education from Boston College and took job at an elementary school in Washington, D.C.

“I was challenged like I was never challenged before academically,” said Canizales, now 23. She plans to enter a doctorate program soon.

After the summer workshops, institute faculty prepare students for meeting with graduate school recruiters searching for the nation’s top candidates.

Cheryl Burgan Apprey, the director of graduate student diversity programs at the University of Virginia, said she looks forward to the institute every year because it feeds in top recruits to the school’s many graduate programs like religious studies and English literature.

She said it also introduces students to University of Virginia.

“It’s a perfect program for this type of recruitment,” Apprey said. “We find it as a real valuable program to our graduate programs.”

Associated Press