Joint FOBA/Senior Faculty Mentor reception welcomes new faculty and staff

The joint FOBA/Senior Faculty Mentor reception event drew a large crowd to welcome new faculty and staff of color to Penn State. Credit: M. Nadhir Ibn Muntaka / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Nittany Lion Inn’s Alumni Lounge was filled Tuesday, Sept. 15, with people from all over the University for the annual reception of the Senior Faculty Mentor and the Forum on Black Affairs (FOBA) for faculty and staff of color.

Both the Senior Faculty Mentor and FOBA have held welcoming receptions for many years, and for the past six years, have combined their efforts, along with the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity, to jointly welcome new faculty and staff of color and enjoy the chance to network.

“That’s the purpose of this — people want to talk to you,” said Edgar Farmer, head of the FOBA finance committee.

“The reception welcomes new faculty and staff of color to the Penn State community,” said Wanda B. Knight, FOBA president and associate professor of art education and women’s studies. “Furthermore, the reception is a forum in which FOBA can proudly acknowledge the progress that Penn State is making toward recruiting and retaining dynamic faculty and staff of color.”

Mildred Williams, who is in her second year working full-time at the Paul Robeson Cultural Center and part-time as a grad student, said that the event laid a “good foundation to feel welcomed and comfortable in a place where I don’t see many people like me.” As a member of FOBA, she is hoping to get involved with several different committees, including student engagement, community engagement and mentorship.

“I believe we can take an active role in recruiting and retaining black faculty and staff members. We are constantly seeking opportunities to take an active role in this respect,” Knight said in her introductory speech.

“Our role is to create an ethos, an attitude that allows us to sustain a diverse environment to help faculty and staff of color succeed at Penn State," said Senior Faculty Mentor and Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English and African American Studies Keith Gilyard.

Many deans attended, as did Vice Provost for Educational Equity Marcus Whitehurst and President Eric Barron.

This year’s reception also featured a performance by the Catalyst Quartet, a group affiliated with the Sphinx Organization that was started by Penn State alumnus Aaron Dworkin. Dworkin, now dean of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at the University of Michigan, started the organization to promote diversity in classical music. He returned to Penn State Sept. 15 as a speaker in the Forum Speaker Series and introduced the Catalyst Quartet before they performed a short piece of music from the Bach/Gould Project.

“I am a product of your work, of what you do here each and every day,” Dworkin said in his introduction. “I’m living out my dream, and that wouldn’t be possible without all the help that I found here.”

Last Updated September 21, 2015