Miguel A. De La Torre
Associate Professor of Social Ethics at Iliff School of Theology
and Director of the Justice and Peace Institute
In 1999, I
was completing my doctorate, and like most, was anxious to find a job.
I had two things going against me. First, I had no idea how to obtain a tenure
track position. A great deal of my time was spent trying to figure out how this
process differed from the typical corporate job search. In fact, it all seemed
rather highbrowed and mysterious: finding faculty search postings, preparing a
dossier, writing an application letter, going through an interview, and
negotiating a job contract. I didn’t understand how faculty searches were
really conducted. I naively believed that academics functioned above and beyond
any form of political dynamics. My second "problem" was that I was a
person of color, and therefore on the margins of the "good-old boy"
system. As much as I wanted to believe that hires were chosen solely because of
the scholastic rigor demonstrated by the applicant, the truth of the matter was
that even within academic settings, race and ethnicity still mattered.
for me, I came across a book that was partly responsible in helping me reach my
goal - the prized tenure track position. The text was the Guide to the
Perplexing: A Survival Manual for Women in Religious Studies published by
the American Academy of Religion. Even though I am male, the practical advice,
elucidation of the politics involved in faculty searches, and step-by-step
explanation of the hiring process proved to be invaluable. The prevailing
oppressive structures faced by women due to institutional sexism are similar to
those faced by scholars of color. It was not too difficult to mentally adjust
the book’s advice to the situations I would probably be facing as a Hispanic
male. Still, even though the Guide to the Perplexing is well written,
and remains a must-read for any woman entering the profession, I wish there had
been a text dealing with the unique and specific challenges faced by scholars
of color - both male and female.
AAR Committee on the Status of Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Profession
announced their intention of producing a Career Guide, I was thrilled.
Knowledge is power, and the existence of a manual that provides the scholar of
color with the necessary information required to survive and flourish
within an academic career is crucial. This manual is specifically designed to
be the product of a collective, versus singular perspective. It is the
concerted effort of scholars representing a variety of races and ethnicities.
The main chapter writers are: Mary C. Churchill, Kwok Pui-lan, Rita Nakashima
Brock, Peter J. Paris, Anthony Pinn, Rosetta Ross, Andrea Smith, John J.
Thatamanil, Lynne Westfield, and myself, Miguel A. De La Torre, who also served
as editor. Each chapter is a composite of the collective wisdom of scholars of
color from throughout the academy, who have contributed a great deal of
feedback, anecdotal stories, and thoughtful advice.
manual’s usefulness is not limited to the task of obtaining a job, but covers
the entire academic career, beginning with the consideration of graduate
school, and onward to retiring from the profession. Written from the
perspective of marginalized groups, the contributors explain situations
normally faced by candidates of color that are due to institutionalized racism
and ethnic discrimination. As you will read, their encounters differ greatly
from those experienced by their Euro-American counterparts.
chapter serves as an introduction, focusing on who we are as scholars of
colors, and exploring the importance of balancing our academic careers with
self-care. There is also the struggle to avoid the fracturing of who we are, as
we deal with perceptions of our identity, as in being the first or only scholar
of color within our families, communities, or institutions. The second chapter
discusses graduate school: how to select the school, the advisor, the
committee, and the dissertation topic, followed by a discussion of skills
needed while navigating through the doctoral process.
chapter focuses on the faculty search, a literal nuts and bolts guide on how to
search, prepare, apply, and interview for job openings. The fourth chapter
deals with the tenure process. This chapter explores institutional
responsibilities, establishing relationships, choosing research projects,
teaching skills, and career paths to follow. The fifth chapter describes what
usually happens post-tenure, and the challenges and stresses one might face, as
well as grant writing, sabbaticals, and preparing for retirement. Chapter six
looks at other career options outside tenure-track academic teaching positions,
i.e. activism, administration, publishing, etc. The seventh chapter
concentrates on dealing with difficult issues, specifically harassment at the
workplace. Chapter eight is geared to those institutional administrators
wishing to diversify their campus community by providing predominantly white
school administrators with valuable information on how to attract and retain
scholars of color. The final chapter serves as a bibliography for the
individual desiring to do further research.
Committee on the Status of Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Profession
decided to post the manuscript on the AAR website. Because it is an electronic
manual, the information can be easily obtained and constantly updated.
important to note the many hands that made this e-book possible. Specifically,
we are grateful to Barbara DeConcini and her colleagues at the AAR for their
administrative work. We also appreciate the advice given to us by Rebecca T.
Alpert and Mary E. Hunt. We recognize the generosity of the Luce Foundation for
their financial support. And finally, we thank the first three chairpersons of
the AAR ad hoc Committee and Standing Committee on the Status of Racial and
Ethnic Minorities in the Profession (Dwight N. Hopkins, Peter J. Paris, and
Kwok Pui-lan) for their vision which produces the groundwork that made this
e-book a reality.