Dr. Bryan Samuel calls Grow Your Own a “national best practice.” Grow Your Own encourages the academic achievement of highly effective educators of color at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where the number of minority faculty on campus has increased with the help of this initiative.  Currently there are 24 minority educators in the tenure track pipeline according to Samuel, UTC Director of Equity and Diversity.

This initiative first took root in Illinois.

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Dr. Felicia McGhee-Hilt

“Community Colleges and universities began using this model as a pipeline for faculty in order to acquire minority faculty at their institutions.  People who were identified as talented but had no experience could not get a job; therefore, Grow Your Own was created to support women and minorities with gaining experience and credentials to fill faculty positions,” said Samuel.

During Dr. Felicia McGhee-Hilt’s career as a reporter at WTVC News Channel 9, she was asked to teach a communications course after a professor left UTC to pursue her doctoral degree.

McGhee-Hilt was approached by colleagues from Grow Your Own who encouraged her to pursue the position.  She was also encouraged by Dr. Betsy Alderman and Dr. Rebecca Bromley, who wrote letters of support for McGhee-Hilt to remain at UTC and teach permanently.   McGhee-Hilt was pursuing her master’s degree at the time in 2005, but she wondered where she would find time to begin the doctoral track.

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Darrell Walsh

“With wonderful support from parents and colleagues, I was able to attend UTK and complete my doctorate in three years.   I credit Dr. Barbara Wofford, retired UTC diversity officer and Vice-Chancellor Richard Brown for giving me the extra guidance I needed to remain in the Grow Your Own program.   Grow Your Own was extremely beneficial to me, a very positive experience,” stated McGhee-Hilt.

Darrell Walsh was accepted into Grow Your Own in 2000. His enthusiasm for the program has not waned; however, as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, Walsh’s three deployments have delayed completion of his doctoral degree.

“The entire university has been absolutely supportive of me and each deployment.  The experience with Grow Your Own has been rewarding.  I enjoy working with students and teaching sociology, a subject matter I love.”

By Angel Ulmer, University Relations Intern

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