By Ashley Rutland

According to a 2021 study, Black faculty only make up 6 percent of all faculty in colleges and universities. As a future Black educator, these statistics have made me anxious and uncertain to pursue a degree in education. The underrepresentation of minorities in post-secondary education is heart-rending. I am left wondering what steps I can take to prepare myself to enter a field that presents such glaring disparities.

During this month, I asked several students to share the names of Black educators at the University of Louisville who have positively impacted their lives and deserve recognition. Eight professors from various disciplines were chosen. I was curious to learn about what these professors value about teaching, and what advice they have for Black students pursuing Education. Considering only 6% of professors in the U.S. are from minority backgrounds, their insights were especially valuable for me as I plan to continue with my academic studies.

The University has a distinguished faculty, comprising eight respected professors. Christopher Seals, Marion Hambrick, Marcis Fennell, Aaron Barnes, Kaila Story, Sherri Wallace, Jasmine Whiteside, and Edna Ross come from departments such as the School of Medicine, College of Education, College of Business, Health and Sport Sciences, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Political Science, Sociology, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies.

With teaching experience ranging from two to forty years, each professor brings unique insights and expertise to their respective disciplines.

Dr. Story, Dr. Seal, Dr. Whiteside, and Dr. Wallace pointed out to me that teaching is a deeply rewarding experience. As an educator, I can inspire my students, while they, in turn, can inspire me. Learning is a two-way process involving both the teacher and student in the teaching and learning journey. These professors value the power of education to both learn and give guidance. Their perspectives have encouraged me to think of my classroom as a place where students of all backgrounds have confidence in themselves and their ability to achieve their goals.

On the other hand, these professors were able to ease my concerns about my preparation for entering into education. Dr. Barnes shared an intriguing perspective on how I could use my experiences to enrich my students’ learning beyond the limits of textbooks. Dr. Hambrick reminded me of the impact I could make on the lives of students, particularly those of color who may not have many opportunities to learn from Black faculty members, just by pursuing a degree in education as a Black student.

Knowing that my life experiences can positively influence my students’ individuality is truly fulfilling. Even though I sometimes feel like my efforts are not making a difference, being an educator makes it all worthwhile.

Dr. Fennell reminded me that an effective instructor should possess the courage to instruct for what is needed within the learning environment over what is liked. Dr. Ross’s advice to focus on where one can go, rather than where one came from, and to cultivate mastery and resilience, resonated deeply with me.

Students of color, like me, thrive with diverse and experienced teachers who understand their challenges and have a personal, firm dedication to their success. This entire experience has inspired me to pursue my dreams with passion and purpose.

Ashley Rutland is majoring in Secondary Education with a Track in English. As an undergraduate at the University of Louisville, she actively shares life experiences, through writing and social media, to provide comfort and inspiration to those in her community.

Photo Courtesy // The University of Louisville