A leg up for new faculty

As he embarked on his academic career, Sean Joe found it hard to connect with other scholars of color interested in research as a tool for social change.

The organization he founded, the Emerging Scholars Interdisciplinary Network (ESIN), makes connecting less of a chore for others like him.

Launched in 2000, ESIN provides networking, resources and online tools for early-career scholars of color in the social, behavioral and natural sciences. The group places special emphasis on researchers interested in community-based work that can improve the social and physical well-being of low-income neighborhoods.

Joe, an assistant professor of social work, said that activist scholars of color such as himself get detoured on the path to pursuing the kind of research that truly interests them. He attributed this to the emphasis the tenure process places on more traditional scholarship and to difficulties finding like-minded colleagues for mentoring and exchange of ideas.

ESIN jump-starts the process by connecting junior and senior faculty online and sponsoring research groups and conferences to promote interdisciplinary study. The organization’s first conference, “Advancing Research to Reduce Health and Social Inequities in Communities of Color,” was held at Penn in September.

“A significant number of [minority] scholars [grew up in] poor communities,” said Joe, who was raised in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighborhood. In academe, “wanting to go back to these communities is seen as an extracurricular activity.” One of ESIN’s goals is to change that perception.

While membership in ESIN is limited to young scholars of color, scholars of all races and career stages are welcome to participate as potential mentors and affiliates. The group’s web site, emergingscholars.net, contains forums for the exchange of ideas and research, news about conferences and seminars, and career development information, including training, grants and faculty openings.

Funding for ESIN is currently provided by the W.E.B. DuBois Collective Research Institute at Penn.

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Originally published on October 30, 2003