SIS Assistant Professor Jiangen He is part of a project recently awarded a $737,596 National Science Foundation grant that will take an in-depth, systematic approach to explore why faculty join or leave historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Besides He, there are three other institutions and four other researchers involved in the three-year-long project. They are: Associate Professor Erjia Yan, Drexel University; Assistant Professor Mat Kelly, Drexel University; Assistant Professor Chaoqun Ni, University of Wisonsin-Madison; and Associate Professor Robert Palmer, Howard University. The share of the grant money awarded to UT is $191,102, which will aid He in conducting his portion of the research.
He said the group has diverse expertise to guide this complex and intensive project. One skill he lends to the undertaking will be the creation of a visualization dashboard to disseminate the research results publicly.
“We want to make our results have broader impact so it can be used by administrators at HBCUs, so they can make evidence-based decisions on how to retain faculty members and avoid losing talented people,” He explained.
Data gathering for this project will be a massive part of the research, as the group will be scouring internet archives to trace the movements of past faculty as they moved in and out of positions at HBCUs and other institutions. The group will look at as many faculty as they possibly can from all disciplines. He said past studies have been conducted on this topic, but not in such a systematic and broad way. It has also been several years since such research has been conducted, and new factors that influence faculty mobility could be at play, he said.
“We will also collect all kinds of data from online about each faculty member so we can characterize the characteristics of faculty who have recently joined and who have left HBCUs,” He said, noting they would compare things such as publication frequency and quantity of citations to see if there is any significant changes in those when faculty are employed at HBCUs versus at other institutions.
In addition to gathering and analyzing data about faculty, the researchers will also conduct interviews to gain more insight on the reasons why faculty either leave or go to work at HBCUs.
“The decision-making process may be very complicated and, just based on the data from the internet, we may not be able to explain – is there enough support, do they have more of a working load, are there better opportunities at other places?” He said.
Besides believing this is an important topic to address for the health of HBCUs, He was drawn to this work because of scientometrics – the science of science – and the data science and data visualization aspects of the project. He is also excited about the scope of the project which, upon completion, will provide the largest overview ever produced of HBCU faculty mobility.