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Paving the way

Fernando Guzman, PhD '95, serves as DU's assistant provost for multicultural faculty recruitment and retention. Photo by: Tim Ryan

As one of seven children and the first in his family to go to college, Fernando Guzman needed encouragement to go from picking walnuts to picking up a doctoral degree.

He got that encouragement from his family, fellow migrant farm worker students and Chicano activists who provided a network of collegiate support.

“There was always someone working for me behind the scenes,” Guzman says. “Now it’s my turn to lend a helping hand.”

In his role as DU’s assistant provost for multicultural faculty recruitment and retention, Guzman, PhD ’95, now encourages other scholars of color. Since taking the post in 2003, Guzman has established several faculty advancement programs and an ever-expanding network of talented minority doctoral students ready to advance to faculty positions.

“Fernando offers an invaluable service to doctoral students of color, to the University’s efforts to diversify the faculty ranks, and, more broadly, to DU’s understanding of the public good,” says Interim Provost Gregg Kvistad.

Guzman was born in San Jose, Calif., in 1956 and grew up working in fields and orchards with his parents. He graduated from the University of Santa Clara with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and later enrolled in California State University, where he earned a master’s degree in counseling while helping migrant students adjust to college. In 1988, with those same students challenging him to follow his own advice, Guzman enrolled in the DU College of Education counseling psychology doctoral program.

Guzman was running his own consulting business when DU approached him to help with faculty recruitment. He saw the offer as an opportunity to help other minorities follow the trail that had been blazed for him.

“I’ve never strayed too far from the helping professions,” Guzman says. “I saw the DU position as a way to help people like me achieve their goals.”

Guzman helps by working both sides of the hiring process. With the support of the chancellor and provost, he has built relationships with deans and faculty involved with hiring. He nominates qualified candidates of color for open positions, assists search committees and, with DU’s Faculty of Color Association, helps new faculty members settle into the DU environment.

“He’s paving the way for a new kind of search ambassador,” says Education Assistant Professor Frank Tuitt, an African-American recruited by Guzman. “He works hard to make us feel less isolated.”

DU’s National Summer Institute is a key component of Guzman’s recruiting efforts. Founded to help doctoral students of color advance in academia, the institute brings several dozen doctoral students from across the country to Denver each year for a week of seminars and tours of the city and campus. The seminars are primarily geared toward showing doctoral students how to establish networks to complete their degrees and navigate the tenure-track path.

To that end, Guzman also has established a series of doctoral dissertation workshops. In addition, working with DU’s Center for Multicultural Excellence, Guzman invites faculty members to an annual diversity summit, offers faculty diversity curriculum and research grants, and engages minority faculty and students in a variety of special events and projects.

Guzman says his “personal touch” style of recruiting is a lost art. But the towering Latino with the warm handshake says it’s the only way he knows to make people feel at home at DU. Building relationships, he says, is something he learned from his father and all the others who pushed, pulled and prodded him into succeeding.

“Everyone needs help once in a while,” he says. “That’s why I’m here.”

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