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Senior Faculty Mentors

The Office of Educational Equity houses two Senior Faculty Mentors who serve as a critical resource, particularly for underrepresented racial/ethnic minority tenure-track faculty members and other marginalized identities at Penn State. The Senior Faculty Mentors are available to offer guidance that helps facilitate the attainment of tenure, promotion, and advancement at each faculty career stage, including the transition to retirement. Senior Faculty Mentors have extensive knowledge and experience that includes varied administrative leadership, faculty mentorship, faculty advancement, and career development. Their understanding of and practice with matters of equity and inclusion in higher education are the foundation of their commitment to diversity at Penn State.

Senior Faculty Mentors are part of the Office of Educational Equity’s broader effort to maintain an equitable and inclusive learning and workplace environment at Penn State. Tenure-track faculty members from underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities and those from other marginalized identities are especially encouraged to consider Senior Faculty Mentors as a resource, though all are welcome.

In line with Penn State's commitment to the excellence and long-term diversity of its faculty, Senior Faculty Mentor services include, but are not limited to:

  • One-on-one consultations, including reviews of faculty member dossiers; informal guidance on progress to tenure and promotion; and the exploration/development of varied potential academic career trajectories (e.g., department head, associate dean opportunities, post retirement, etc.).
  • An initial point of contact for the identification and navigation of resources to address experiences of concern in the workplace.
  • Provision of supplemental funding for faculty members to engage in professional conferences and/or publish research that strengthens their scholarly profiles s in support of tenure, promotion and continued academic career  success.
  • Coordination of a series of colloquia, receptions, electronic, and other resources that build and maintain a professional support community.


Keith Gilyard, Senior Faculty Mentor

Keith GilyardA native New Yorker and two-time recipient of an American Book Award, Keith Gilyard has passionately embraced African American expressive culture over the course of his career as a poet, scholar, and educator. Beyond his own literary output, he has pursued—and in some instances merged—two main lines of humanistic inquiry: literary studies, with its concern for beauty and significant form, and rhetorical studies, with its emphasis on the effect of trope and argument in culture. Moreover, his interests branch out into popular culture, civic discourse, and educational praxis. A critical perspective concerning these areas is, in his view, integral to the development of discerning and productive publics both on and beyond campuses, and therefore crucial to the optimal practice of democracy. As a faculty member at Medgar Evers College-CUNY, Gilyard helped to establish (1986) the National Black Writers Conference, now convened biennially at that venue. At Syracuse University, he served as director of the Writing Program (1995–1999) and as interim chair of the Department of African American Studies (1996–1997). Upon his arrival at Penn State in 1999, he began planning the seventeenth Penn State Conference on Rhetoric and Composition, which was held during the summer of 2001 around the theme “American Ethnic Rhetorics.” In 2012, he served as chair of the University’s promotion and tenure committee.

Long active in national organizations, Gilyard headed the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in 2002 and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in 2012. In addition to producing numerous essays, and lecturing widely, Gilyard has authored, edited, or co-edited seventeen books, including the education memoir Voices of the Self: A Study of Language Competence (1991), Let's Flip the Script: An African American Discourse on Language, Literature, and Learning (1996), Composition and Cornel West: Notes toward a Deep Democracy (2008), John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism (2010), and True to the Language Game: African American Discourse, Cultural Politics, and Pedagogy (2011). 

Keith Gilyard
Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English and African American Studies

Keith Gilyard is the Senior Faculty Mentor for the following Penn State campuses: 
Altoona, Beaver, Behrend, DuBois, Fayette, Greater Allegheny, Mont Alto, New Kensington, Shenango, University Park



Jennifer Hamer, Senior Faculty Mentor

Jennifer Hamer 2Jennifer Hamer has a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas-Austin with an accomplished career as an administrator and faculty member. Her academic scholarship and teaching focus on working class and African American families, equity, qualitative methodologies, and higher education. She has served as editor for three journals, Race and Society; Black Women, Gender, and Families; and Women, Gender, and Families of Color, the latter two of which she founded.

She has comprehensive administrative experience in program and curricular creation and assessment; faculty, staff, and student resource development; strategic planning, policy creation and implementation; and mentoring faculty throughout the career cycle. She served as a department head and associate dean at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Kansas, and a vice provost at the University of Kansas and specializes in access, equity, and inclusion for students, faculty, and staff.

She is currently a full professor in African American Studies, Senior Faculty Mentor in Educational Equity, Penn State, and the Director of the newly launched Mid-career Faculty Advancement Program.

Jennifer Hamer is the Senior Faculty Mentor for the following Penn State campuses: 
Abington, Berks, Brandywine, Harrisburg, Hazleton, Lehigh Valley, Schuylkill, Scranton, University Park, Wilkes-Barre, York, Great Valley

(On special assignment with the Office of the President through December 2023.)



For more information, visit the Senior Faculty Mentors website at