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Communicating Gratitude

Pathways to the Professoriate

David Mancosh

When dean E. Patrick Johnson began drafting his strategic plan for the School of Communication, building a more diverse faculty emerged as an urgent priority. A vital channel for creating a more representative community can come about by identifying and empowering promising postdoctoral scholars and PhD candidates.

“Finding and securing a tenure-track faculty position for a newly minted doctoral candidate can be an intimidating and complicated process—especially for candidates of color, who face added barriers due to lack of access, equitable distribution of resources, and mentorship opportunities,” Johnson says. “I wanted to create a pipeline to guarantee that postdocs from underrepresented groups have an equal shot at tenure-eligible positions here at Northwestern.”

With the generous support from an anonymous couple, Johnson’s vision is coming to fruition, in the first program of its kind at Northwestern.

The David Mancosh Pathways to the Professoriate Postdoctoral Fellowship Fund, named for the donor’s mentor, will allow school faculty to strategically recruit new PhDs to become tenure-track faculty members, when positions are available, through a two-year process. The $500,000 gift comes with matching funds from the University. Set to launch this academic year, the program will closely vet candidates via methods and procedures consistent with tenure-track faculty searches. Once at Northwestern, candidates will be given access to resources and mentorship opportunities, and at the end of the fellowship period they will move seamlessly into tenure-track positions.

“During our first conversation with Dean Johnson, we talked about the importance of truly embracing candidates from underrepresented groups and letting them know, without question, we believe in them,” the donor says. “What a difference that makes —as someone who grew up with the cards definitively stacked against me, I know firsthand the importance of this support. We could not be more honored to be a small part of Dean Johnson’s vision.”

The fund is named for David Mancosh, a Pennsylvania educator who changed the course of the donor’s life. A scrappy kid from a steel town, Mancosh grew up to be a World War II veteran, dedicated headmaster, and loving father of four sons. He was widely respected as a strong leader with a heart of gold, who was devoted to developing the minds and character of students and teachers alike. He took pride in nurturing students and providing opportunities in cases of hardship or limited opportunity, working tirelessly to ensure students had access to financial aid and transportation to school. He died in 2014 at age 90.

“We’re thrilled that we get to be the pilot for this sort of program at Northwestern, and in honor of a man who clearly championed finding equitable opportunities for his students,” Johnson says. “The School of Communication is uniquely equipped to nurture early-career faculty, as we are highly interdisciplinary and rigorous, but this is still a supportive and nurturing environment. Our senior faculty are genuinely eager to help the next generation enter the academy, and we have created a framework where they can freely access the support and resources that are often hard to come by when one is just starting out.

“I am profoundly grateful to the donors for believing in this important program. In order to foster systemic change and fight racism, the voices of our faculty members must lead the way. The Mancosh Fellowship Fund will ensure that we elevate the voices so often left out of the dialogue.”