Mr. Robert Carmouche
Director of Special Services
What is the history of the Black Faculty Staff Association at UL Lafayette?
The organization was first established to develop a dialog and bond between black faculty to examine and promote the necessity of pursuing continuous educational development while employed at the University. It was also established to determine more holistically the academic and non-academic needs of African American students and to develop a plan to increase the retention and graduation rates of these students. The association members were expected to meet with newly employed African American faculty and professional staff to give them a sense of belonging and security on the campus. The organizational leaders were expected to strengthen the dialogue between the upper administrators with the goal of improving the institutional climate for African American faculty, professional staff and students.
Why do you feel this organization is significant on our campus?
I think it is important that this organization continues to live up to its mission and purpose statement as stated on its website. There is still a strong need for the minority group of faculty, staff, and students to bond together to address the concerns faced by them on this campus as well as throughout this country. It is always more appropriate to be at the table to address problems that are interfering with the educational development of students of color than not to be at the table at all. This organized group of individuals should continue to help this university to grow in terms of the enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of African American students. The recruitment, enrollment and retention of excellent minority faculty members should continue to be a focus of this organization. We play an integral role in assisting our president, Dr. Savoie, whose goal is to increase the number of African Americans working in professional areas at this university in numbers that are more reflective of our state population. Fellowshipping with new members also plays a very important role in the retention of African American students and faculty on this campus, as it is on other predominately white campuses.
What is your best experience with the organization?
It would be difficult to name just one “best” experience. Of course, the initial forming of this association would count as one of them, as I was one of the founding members. This organization has been of great benefit to the individuals we sought to serve, but it also speaks to the progressiveness of our university in understanding that people of color do experience life on a predominately white campus differently. Over the years of the organization, this University has had only two presidents. It is extremely important that this type of organization always have the support of the president, and the president must engage himself or herself in conversations with all Black faculty and staff members as it relates to their success and that of the students. African American faculty, professional staff and students perform at their best, especially when they are in the minority, on a campus where there are real commitments for diversity from the top. One of the most important experiences I have had has been the opportunity to express what needs to be said without fear of repercussions from upper level administrators. African Americans and other minority groups work at their best when they are without fear and are treated justly. I think my next “best” experience is one that happens every year when we honor those African American students that are highly achieving at the university. To witness the excitement of these students for being honored for academic achievement, and to see their families turn up in high numbers, has been so rewarding each year. This tells me that we have done many things right.
What piece of advice would you offer to a young, aspiring African American in higher education?
I think a laundry list of things is appropriate here.
- Learn everything that you can about the university…read…read…read. Read books on higher education as it relates to not just your area, but what’s new, what’s changing, etc.
- Understand the mission of your area, the strategic plan of the University, and how what you do impacts that plan.
- Choose a mentor, someone who can help you navigate the culture.
- Keep learning…extra classes…another degree. If you plan to continue in higher education, examine terminal degrees in your area of work, or if you’d like to work in other areas of academia, explore those.
- Set both short-term and long-term goals as it relates to your career.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions…be honest about what you know or don’t know.
- Recognize that we are all in the business of developing students to reach their potential, and that students are ALL of our business no matter what your job is at the university.
- Be passionate about what you do, and recognize that if you are, it will be recognized!