C3 emerged from the need and desire to face a negatively reinforcing cycle: as liberal arts colleges fail to recruit and retain faculty members from underrepresented groups, they limit their ability to provide their underrepresented students with role models and mentors, which results in fewer of these students aspiring to careers in academia or in the public service.
Higher education institutions face common barriers to attracting and retaining underrepresented graduate students and faculty. A growing body of scholarship demonstrates that these barriers can only be overcome with sustained and intentional collaboration among institutions that do not ordinarily interact. Institutional transformation will be necessary for both liberal arts colleges and research universities to be able to attract and sustain a diverse group of students and faculty.
In its first year, C3 built on a foundation of shared commitment to transformational diversity and a track record of collaboration through the Liberal Arts Diversity Officers (LADO) consortium and the Center for Institutional and Social Change, to become a model for cross-institutional collaboration. A values and commitment-based enterprise, C3 motivates participants and leadership to invest time, resources, and intellectual capital to realize its mission:
To advance innovation and transformation in higher education to enable students and faculty, whatever their identities, backgrounds, or institutional positions to access, thrive, realize their capabilities, engage meaningfully in institutional life, and contribute to the flourishing of others.
The goals of C3 are ambitious, and will be reached by leveraging the creative power of institutions to affect individuals at critical junctures along the academic pathway from undergraduate studies to the professoriate. The two fellowship programs, the liberal arts experience workshops, and central aspects of the Summit all aim to provide information, support, capacity building and new connections at a time when undergraduate and graduate students are contemplating their post-graduation future. The figure below illustrates C3′s approach.
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C3 capitalizes on a dialogue that began in 2008 among the diversity officers and academic leaders of the member-schools of the Liberal Arts Diversity Officers Consortium (LADO) and with colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. All have played an important role in shaping the consortium.
Read an account of the creation of C3 as told by Shirley Collado, Dean of the College at Middlebury.