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Disciplinary Society Engagement with Community College Faculty: A Key Element for Increasing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

by Katherine R. Rowell, Mark Maier & R. Heather MacDonald - March 07, 2022

In this commentary, we discuss ways disciplinary associations may advance diversity, equity, and inclusion through increasing two-way collaborations with community college faculty. We note that increasing engagement and leadership opportunities for community college faculty in disciplinary associations holds potential for advancing diversity in majors, increasing equity in student engagement, and promoting inclusion in the profession.

As seen in the summer 2021 issue of New Directions in Community Colleges, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding an initiative to instill stronger professional disciplinary presence in community colleges. There was a convening of over 100 faculty representing 14 disciplines in January to further this work. Rowell et. al. discusses this initiative in detail. As a complement, the second essay focuses on one example of discipline-workteaching future educators--and the importance of community colleges in developing clear and supportive pathways for students to enter teaching as a career.

- Robin G. Isserles and David Levinson

Most academic disciplines have increasingly embraced the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Because community colleges teach an estimated 30 to 40% of U.S. undergraduate students and their students are diverse by gender, race, and age (Community College Research Center 2022), they hold tremendous potential to increase the number and diversity of students majoring and seeking careers in STEM and other disciplines. A reciprocal relationship between professional societies and community college faculty can help realize this potential and work toward greater equity and inclusion. Thus, community college faculty and students need to be part of DEI conversations with their disciplinary societies. 

A recent New Directions for Community Colleges issue on Community College Engagement with Disciplinary Societies, edited by the authors, includes contributions by more than 40 community college faculty from 11 disciplines (each disciplinary article is listed at the end of the commentary). Drawing from that issue, we highlight some of the promising actions from different disciplines that address DEI-based community college faculty engagement with professional societies. We also share recommendations that others may follow. 

In several disciplines, community college faculty already are leaders in promoting DEI.


In sociology, community college faculty identify their work as a commitment to supporting marginalized students. The American Sociological Association (ASA) convened a task force on community college issues from 2012 to 2017. Based on the task force's final report, the ASA approved a more inclusive diversity statement to reduce the marginalization felt by various groups within the organization, including community college faculty. See the complete report and task force findings at https://www.asanet.org/communities-sections/community-college-faculty.


The Two Year College Association in English has a long tradition explicitly linking two-year writing programs to equity. That work includes advocating more inclusive approaches to writing and supporting research on ways in which writing studies can foster public engagement and further social justice: https://ncte.org/groups/tyca/tyca-about-us/.


Since 2018, the Equity Committee of the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges has organized monthly virtual equity events. 


In geoscience, the SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents project, sponsored by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT), has built a network of faculty who use evidence-based strategies to support student success and increase diversity and inclusion. Ormand et al., (2021) described the use and impact of discussion groups committed to action in making departments diverse, equitable, and inclusive. 


The relationships between community college faculty and disciplinary societies are a work in progress. In partnership, they can do more to promote DEI in the disciplines. Specifically, we make the following recommendations. 


(1) Disciplinary societies can do more to engage community college faculty, and community colleges can do more to support faculty participation in disciplinary societies. Surveys show that community college faculty are eager for discipline-based professional development related to content and pedagogy. They also appreciate participation in professional society meetings and conferences, both regional and national. Also, disciplinary associations would benefit from understanding the work of community college faculty in the DEI conversation. Community college faculty have much to add to the conversation of DEI and could be invited to present workshops and professional development that build on their expertise in DEI. When such programs advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, evidence should be shared across disciplines. Given that more than half of the instructors at community colleges are adjuncts (Center for Community College Student Engagement, 2014), it is essential that they are supported by both community colleges and disciplinary societies. 


The focus of discipline-based professional development offered by professional societies and community colleges should include an emphasis on DEI issues and include a range of topics that would help students succeed in community college and support them in transfer to four-year universities (e.g., Wang, 2020) and the workforce. This professional development could involve pedagogical strategies, including high-impact practices such as undergraduate research, to include course-based undergraduate research, developing students sense of belonging, teaching students how to learn, providing updates on disciplinary content, and more. The professional development should be offered at a range of scales (local to regional to national) and in different formats (face-to-face and virtual). 


Example: The Scientist Spotlights Initiative promotes diversity and inclusion through assignments and activities that link the stories of counter-stereotypical scientists to course content (Schinske et al., 2016).


(2) Disciplinary societies can bring community faculty into leadership positions, and both disciplinary societies and community colleges can develop and support community college faculty as grassroots leaders. Disciplinary societies can work to ensure that community college faculty, full-time and part-time, have a place at the table regarding leadership of the societies, in terms of both their participation in and leadership of committees. In some cases, this effort may mean removing barriers to their participation. Including community college faculty in leadership positions in disciplinary societies provides an opportunity for the societies to learn from the experience and expertise of the community college faculty in DEI as well as other areas.  


Example: The SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents Program, which included a specific focus on developing community college faculty as grassroots leaders (Iverson et al., 2020), supported a network of geoscience and other STEM faculty change agents who led workshops for colleagues to accelerate diffusion of DEI and other practices (Macdonald et al., 2019; Ormand et al., 2021). SAGE 2YC, in a partnership with the NAGT Geo2YC Division, offered a virtual book club discussion and implementation groups on Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do for community college geoscience faculty. 


(3) Collect data on the diversity of community college faculty and students by discipline and by geographic area.  Although there are data for U.S. community colleges as a whole, much less is known about students and faculty on the level of individual disciplines. It will be a necessary starting point to better support community college instruction. Contact information will facilitate communication with community college faculty. Demographic data on students will highlight the potential for community colleges to address diversity in each discipline. Needs will vary depending on differing community college systems across the country.

Example: The Committee on Economic Education of the American Economic Association is sponsoring a survey to identify diversity among community college faculty and students as a first step toward addressing the disciplines now-recognized serious diversity problem (Bayer, 2021).

In summary, advancing DEI across the disciplines necessitates two-way collaboration between professional associations and community college faculty. Professional associations can learn about DEI challenges and solutions by including community college faculty in leadership and decision-making. At the same time, community college faculty can improve their content knowledge and pedagogical skills if they participate in programs sponsored by disciplinary societies. Ultimately, students will be the beneficiaries, advancing diversity in majors, increasing equity in student success, and promoting inclusion in the profession.

Suggested Disciplinary Readings

Bickerstaff, S., & Ran, F. X. (2021). A role for disciplinary societies in supporting community college adjunct faculty. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(194), 151158. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20460

Gonzales, T. (2021). Historian organizations and community college faculty: Past connections and future projects. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(194), 9599. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20455

Harbol, M. R., Farajallah, A., & Kojima, R. (2021). The American Chemical Society and twoyear college chemistry faculty relationships. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(194), 29–41. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20450

Holmberg, T. J., Gusky, S., Kiser, S., Karpakakunjaram, V., Seitz, H., Fletcher, L., Fields, L., Nenortas, A., Corless, A., & Marcos, K. (2021). Biology educators, professional societies, and practitioner networks within community colleges. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(194), 1528. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20449

Jensen, D. L., CalhoonDillahunt, C., Griffiths, B., & Toth, C. (2021). Embracing the democratic promise: Transforming twoyear colleges and writing studies through professional engagement. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(194), 55–66. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20452

Kozak, K., Ström, A., & Watkins, L. (2021). Mathematics at twoyear colleges: Lessons from AMATYC. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(194), 101–112. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20456

Lui, K. P. H., O'Kuma, T., & Hilborn, R. (2021). Linking physics in twoyear colleges and physics professional societies. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(194), 113–124. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20457

Maier, M., Rowell, K. R., & Macdonald, R. H. (2021). Editors notes. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(194), 79. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20447

Malakar, C. L., & Peyton, J. (2021). Connecting community college economics faculty with the American Economic Association and the Federal Reserve System. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(194), 4354. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20451

RonquilloAdachi, J., Lewis, L., Rudmann, J., Boenau, M., & Hailstorks, R. J. (2021). Community college faculty engagement in psychology's professional societies. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(194), 125–137. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20458

Rowell, K. R., Vitullo, M. W., Smith, M. A., & Levinson, D. L. (2021). Integrating community college faculty into disciplinary associations: Lessons from sociology. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(194), 139149. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20459

Shabram, P., & Housel, J. (2021). Building a partnership to build a pipeline for geographers. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(194), 6778. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20453

Tvelia, S., Branlund, J., Hams, J., Baer, E. M., Layou, K. M., & Macdonald, R. H. (2021). Community college faculty connections with geoscience societies: Community engagement and leadership development. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2021(194), 7993. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20454



Bayer, A. (2021). Diversifying economic quality. American Economic Association Committee on Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession. http://diversifyingecon.org

Center for Community College Student Engagement. (2014). Contingent commitments: Bringing part-time faculty into focus (A special report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement). Austin: The University of Texas at Austin, Program in Higher Education Leadership.

Community College Research Center. (2022). Community college FAQs. https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Community-College-FAQs.html#:~:text=Overall%2C%2044%25%20of%20undergraduates%20were,small%20numbers%20of%20bachelor's%20degrees.

Iverson, E. R., Bragg, D. D., & Eddy, P. L. (2020). How faculty change agents enact midlevel leadership in STEM. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2020(191), 6779. https://doi.org/10.1002/cc.20407

Macdonald, R. H., Beane, R. J., Baer, E. M., Eddy, P. L., Emerson, N. R., Hodder, J., Iverson, E. R., McDaris, J. R., OConnell, K., & Ormand, C. J. (2019). Accelerating change: The power of faculty change agents to promote diversity and inclusive teaching practices. Journal of Geoscience Education, 67(4), 330339. https://doi.org/10.1080/10899995.2019.1624679

Ormand, C. J., Macdonald, H. R., Hodder, J., Bragg, D. D., Baer, E. M., & Eddy, P. (2021). Making departments diverse, equitable, and inclusive: Engaging colleagues in departmental transformation through discussion groups committed to action. Journal of Geoscience Education, 112. https://doi.org/10.1080/10899995.2021.1989980

Schinske, J. N., Perkins, H., Snyder, A., & Wyer, M. (2016). Scientist spotlight homework assignments shift students stereotypes of scientists and enhance science identity in a diverse introductory science class. CBELife Sciences Education, 15(3). https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.16-01-0002

Scientist Spotlights Initiative. (2020, June 18). Supporting and advancing geoscience education in two-year colleges. https://scientistspotlights.org/.

Wang, X. (2020). On my own: The Challenge and promise of building equitable stem transfer pathways. Harvard Education Press.




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 07, 2022
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23997, Date Accessed: 3/12/2022 11:30:55 PM

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About the Author
  • Katherine R. Rowell
    Sinclair Community College
    E-mail Author
    KATHERINE R. ROWELL, Ph.D. is a professor of Sociology at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio where she served as the founding Director of the Center for Teaching in Learning from 2008-2014. She is a teacher, scholar, and activist. She has received numerous awards for teaching including the 2012 American Sociological Association Outstanding Contributions to Teaching Award and the 2005 Carnegie U.S. Community College Professor of the Year. She has written articles on teaching and recently published an article on teacher empathy. She is engaged in housing issues in her community and is the past board chair of the Dayton International Peace Museum.
  • Mark Maier
    Glendale Community College
    E-mail Author
    MARK MAIER, Ph.D., is professor of economics at Glendale Community College (CA). He is co-editor of the New Directions for Community Colleges volume, Community College Faculty Engagement with Disciplinary Societies.
  • R. Heather MacDonald
    William & Mary
    E-mail Author
    R. HEATHER MACDONALD, Ph.D., Chancellor Professor of Geology at William & Mary, is one of the co-editors of the volume on Community College Engagement with Disciplinary Societies.
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