Faculty Members Tommy Ender and Leila Rosa Awarded North Star Collective Faculty Fellowship

Tommy Ender and Leila Rosa

This new fellowship is designed to support the professional development of faculty who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

RIC faculty members Tommy Ender and Leila Rosa (see photo above) have been awarded the first North Star Collective Faculty Fellowship, a new fellowship created by the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE). The North Star Collective is a group of colleges and universities in the New England region committed to transforming their institutions and uplifting faculty members on their campuses who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). Rhode Island College is one of 13 founding members of the North Star Collective.

“Representation matters,” says Anna Cano Morales, RIC Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “At Rhode Island College we pride ourselves on having a rich diversity in our student body; however, we know that diversity is not reflected in the faculty. One of the major priorities for me and my office is to ensure that we increase the number of Black and LatinX faculty. We have heard from faculty and students that this has urgency. Currently, four percent of our full-time faculty identify as LatinX and two percent identify as Black or African American. Partnerships like this one with NEBHE help us work toward our representation goals, which includes retention of our BIPOC faculty members.”

NEBHE chose the name “North Star Collective” to pay “homage to enslaved Africans and African Americans who used the North Star in the night sky to guide them to freedom. The name is also a nod to The North Star, the antislavery newspaper published by African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass.”

The term “collective” was chosen to reflect NEBHE’s desire to establish a community of BIPOC faculty who are tied together by shared experiences in predominantly white higher education institutions in New England. This fellowship will support their professional development, with specific focus on supporting their writing and publishing endeavors, their support networks and their overall well-being, all of which are essential to advancement, tenure and promotion.

“I believe anyone who teaches in higher education needs support and benefits from collaboration and networking activities,” says Rosa, who is Cape Verdean. “I have and continue to gain a great deal from my colleagues. However, for faculty of color, the journey can be a difficult and lonely one. I have often felt alone as I entered faculty meetings where I am the only individual of color or one of only a few people of color, immigrant and bilingual. I often question what I am thinking, measure my words carefully, step softly and often do not expect much in return.”

“At the same time, I hold on for dear life to those colleagues who I feel are supportive, who make an effort to understand my perspective, who listen without dismissing me or turning their attention to other matters,” she says. “With this fellowship, I have a space where I will be able to meet and collaborate with other BIPOC faculty like me. It’s an unimaginable gift. I am truly excited for this opportunity.”

Ender agrees. He says, “Fellowships like this one are sorely needed, especially when faculty of color have long been marginalized by academic and political instabilities.”

Ender’s and Rosa’s semester-long fellowship will run from January 2022 through May 2022.

Ender, who is of Colombian, Italian, Spanish and German descent but who identifies as Latino, is an assistant professor of secondary education history/social studies. He will use his fellowship to explore how music provides perspectives on history, current events and the future. He believes this perspective receives minimal attention in standard curriculum.

Rosa, who is an assistant professor and co-director of RIC’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program, will focus her research on the pedagogical and dispositional changes in educators of multilingual learners/English language learners during and after completion of a TESOL program. Her goal is to continue to improve RIC’s TESOL program.

At the same time, she will be involved with the University of Cabo Verde in a large-scale project to normalize and standardize assessments of Cabo Verde students, all of whom are Cape Verdean and multilingual.

“This project not only benefits Cabo Verde,” she says, “it can potentially be of benefit to the large Cape Verdean diaspora of Southeastern New England. This experience will also better prepare me to train Rhode Island teachers who serve a large population of Cape Verdean students.”

Rosa and Ender will receive a $1,500 stipend for research, publication and professional development; attend a mentored writing retreat; participate in writing groups and workshops crafted to support their professional development and holistic growth; engage in network and peer mentorship opportunities; promote and elevate their research through NEBHE’s digital platforms and networks; and present at a closing colloquium in May 2022 to share their works in progress.