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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.


The Senior Faculty Mentors is attached organizationally to the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity. 

Keith Gilyard ImageKeith Gilyard,
Senior Faculty Mentor

A 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

Penn State campuses Keith is responsible for: 
Altoona, Beaver, Behrend, DuBois, Fayette, Greater Allegheny, Mont Alto, New Kensington, Shenango, University Park 


Jennifer Hamer ImageJennifer Hamer,
Senior Faculty Mentor

Jennifer 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. 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.

Penn State campuses Jennifer is responsible for: 
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)


Jeanine Staples portrait imageJeanine Staples,
Senior Faculty Mentor

Jeanine Staples is a Professor of Literacy and Language with affiliations in both the African American Studies Department and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department at the Pennsylvania State University. She earned her bachelor's degree in English literature and Urban Education from Howard University, her master’s degree in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University, and her doctorate in Literacy and Language, with distinction, from the University of Pennsylvania.

Her research, practice, and advocacy areas center urban education, teacher preparation, adolescent and adult literacies, socioemotional evolutions, and thriving in schools and society. Dr. Staples is an expert in the study of white supremacist patriarchal ideology. She was appointed to the Africana Research Center (2013) and the Social Science Research Consortium (2014) at Penn State. She was named Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University School of Law’s Center for Intersectionality & Social Policy, and Senior Visiting Scholar at the University of Rhode Island’s Harrington School of Communications (2017).

She was honored as the 2020 Mark Luchinsky Memorial Lecturer for social justice and is currently writing two books that are eagerly anticipated by the field, Extraordinary Pedagogies (Teachers College Press, 2024) and Extraordinary Literacies (Palgrave McMillian, 2025). In 2015 she founded the Supreme Love Project (SLP), an emotional justice initiative that translates a part of her research program into praxis. SLP expounds upon Dr. Staples' trauma-informed theories and methodologies to actualize thriving among girls and women placed at risk in schools and society. To date, SLP content has been accessed, and celebrated, by 7.5 million people, worldwide.