When Marie Miville accepted the Janet E. Helms Award for Mentoring and Scholarship at Teachers College’s 2017 Winter Roundtable, she quoted from “La Guera,” an essay in which the Chicana activist and playwright Cherríe Moraga recalls how she came to fully appreciate her own mother:
“It wasn't until I acknowledged and confronted my own lesbianism in the flesh, that my heartfelt identification with and empathy for my mother's oppression — due to being poor, uneducated, and Chicana — was realized.”
For Miville, Professor of Psychology & Education, Moraga’s words capture the essence of intersectionality — the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender — as a framework for understanding the common ground shared by human beings from widely different backgrounds, perspectives, and social locations.
Miville’s own focus on intersectionality was a major reason for her recent appointment as Teachers College’s Vice Dean for Faculty Affairs, a post in which she will lead efforts to enhance faculty mentoring and career development; work with leadership and faculty to create and facilitate diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; oversee the development and review of policies and procedures relating to faculty appointments; and foster a climate in which faculty can thrive.
Miville, a leader in the field of multicultural psychology, has previously served as Chair of the Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Co-Director of the TC Psychology Institute and, for the past year, as the College Ombuds, a confidential resource available to students, faculty, and staff for resolving problems and conflicts. (She will relinquish the latter post this fall.)
Marie is extremely open-minded and equity-minded. She thinks about how to hear everyone and how to honor everyone’s contributions.
— Stephanie Rowley
In naming Miville to the new post, said Stephanie J. Rowley, Provost, Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs, both she and TC President Thomas Bailey were “thinking about how best to build an even stronger community of collaboration and mutual support that fosters equity and inclusion and supports the careers of people from different backgrounds and maximizes excellence for individual faculty.”
“Marie combines extraordinary skills as a multicultural counselor, informed by a deep understanding of issues that confront women, minorities and the LGBTQ community in organizations, with wide-ranging administrative experience,” Rowley said. “Beyond those very impressive credentials, Marie is also extremely open-minded and equity-minded. She thinks about how to hear everyone and how to honor everyone’s contributions. During her time as Ombuds, I was incredibly impressed by Marie’s ability to see the big picture and to help others become their best selves in stressful situations.”
Miville says she is “very excited to be taking on this role,” which she framed, on the most immediate level, as “an opportunity to shine some sunshine onto the basic pipeline of success at the College — our processes of hiring, promotion and tenure.”
One of her starting points, she said, will be to “witness” presentations by candidates in departmental faculty searches, “because that’s where misunderstandings often begin.”
“We need to ensure that candidates fully understand what’s expected, that we make new hires feel welcomed and oriented, and that we continue that kind of communication at each stage of career development,” she says. ““Ultimately, it’s a socialization process, focused on outcomes, and we can’t assume that all our candidates and new hires are equally knowledgeable about it. This is my 25th anniversary of being a university faculty member, and I still remember the old-school days of paper dossiers. In my first year as a faculty member, a colleague showed me everything she was putting forth, and that was how I learned what to do. I never forgot that.”
Miville also sees the creation of her new role as the prompt for “a broader conversation about how we define scholarship, education, and science, and what we value as knowledge and experience.”
“Publication in peer-reviewed journals or producing books have been viewed as gold standards for scholarship, but might we consider other products — for example, social media as a source of current thinking and public discourse?” she says. “Certainly, we should retain a lot of what we have valued in the past, but as we draw in a more diverse range of people and perspectives, we should also strive to be more expansive and inclusive.
“Or take the promotion and tenure requirement to render service to one’s field. I’m an associate editor for a journal and edit a book series, which are traditional ways to fulfill that requirement — but community service is important, too, so what about participation in movements like Black Lives Matter? Universities have to think about not just being drivers of knowledge but also engines of application to people’s lives and wellbeing. We need to bring scholarship to the people — just look at this situation of COVID and the confusion about whom to listen to. We need to expand the conversation — for our very lives and the lives of our children.”
Still another focus for Miville will be the issue of how faculty deal with diversity in the classroom.
Miville sees her new role as an opportunity both to “shine some sunshine onto the basic pipeline of success at the College — our processes of hiring, promotion and tenure” and to hold “a broader conversation about how we define scholarship, education, and science, and what we value as knowledge and experience.”
“Some faculty do a great job with diversity and multicultural issues in the classroom, but the levels of competence and confidence around conducting difficult conversations and using the right kinds of language vary widely,” she says. “Many faculty members are very openly saying, ‘Please, help me, I want to learn more.’ So we’re at a juncture in our community where there’s a real opportunity to make positive change.”
Miville is the co-editor, with Howard University psychologist Angela Ferguson, of The Handbook of Race-Ethnicity and Gender in Psychology (Springer 2014) and editor of Multicultural Gender Roles: Applications for Mental Health and Education (Wiley 2013). Her newest book, tentatively titled Women and the Challenge of STEM Professions: Thriving in the Chilly Climate, will be published by Springer this coming year, and she’s at work on still another book, Counseling and Gender: Intersectional Approaches for Research, Practice, and Advocacy. She’s also leading a project focused on helping psychology faculty members become more multiculturally competent in supervising students in field placements.
“This is an exciting time for me, when a lot of my interests are converging in positive ways, and this new post is part of that,” Miville says. “I truly believe in the social obligation and power of the professoriate, and these initiatives are aimed at strengthening its ability to develop and provide knowledge by expanding horizons for as many people as we can.”
[Watch Miville’s Helms Award acceptance speech at TC’s 2017 Winter Roundtable.]