Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color
By Valerie Kinloch, The Ohio State University
It is my pleasure to write to you as the New Director of the “Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color” (CNV) program. CNV is a two-year mentoring program for advanced doctoral students and junior scholars (i.e., fellows) who are within the first two-to-two and a half years beyond the awarding of a doctorate degree. Funded through the Research Foundation of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), CNV prides itself on supporting the professional, intellectual, and activist activities of scholars of color by pairing each fellow with a senior scholar in the field (i.e., education/teacher research; literacy, language, and cultural studies; English). This way, fellows are afforded an opportunity to work one-on-one with a senior scholar as well as participate in a supportive cohort that brings together fellows, mentors, and invited workshop presenters.
I can still remember going to my mailbox in the Summer of 2000 and receiving a letter from NCTE. It was an invitation to participate in a recently developed program that supported new and emerging scholars of color. That program was CNV, and I was among eleven other people from various universities and at different stages in their academic career invited to be a fellow in the very first cohort (2000-2002). During our first year, much like the current programmatic structure, each fellow-mentor pair identified and/or refined research questions, theoretical frameworks, or modes of inquiry that guided our work. With our mentors and with the entire group, we exchanged perspectives, enhanced our research agendas, and confronted significant questions. These questions related to language, literacy, teacher education, and professional, personal, and community identities. Even more, we shared ideas around meanings of scholarship and productivity, on the one hand, and negotiating the multiple demands oftentimes placed on scholars of color in the academy on the other hand. In our second year, we revisited questions posed in the first year as we moved our work toward varying degrees of completion (i.e., publications; dissertation defenses; conference presentations; professional development workshops; etc). By the time we were ready to graduate from CNV at the end of our second year, many of us had already secured tenure track positions, written academic articles and books, accepted significant roles in activist organizations, and successfully defended dissertation proposals and manuscripts.
It was an honor for me to be a part of this first cohort, and, a few years later, to be invited to serve as a mentor to a new fellow. Now, as the Director of CNV, I plan on continuing the tradition established by members of the Research Foundation who first conceived of this program as well as by past directors, Professors Peter Smagorinsky and Maria Franquiz. That is, I plan to continue collaborating with scholars, practitioners, and activists in order to support the work of our fellows of color. Each fall at the annual NCTE convention, CNV sponsors a full-day working institute for fellows and mentors. We invite scholars from the convention’s host city to talk with us about their research and to answer questions we may have about being active members in the academy and community. Additionally, each spring, CNV sponsors a working institute for fellows and mentors at a host university, which serves as a follow-up to the fall meeting. These events—our fall and spring institutes—paired with ongoing conversations that occur outside of our scheduled meetings and the lasting relationships that extend beyond CNV are significant. They are the basis of the program’s success and longevity. I invite you to learn more about CNV (www.ncte.org) and to ask me questions should you have any.