Loyola University Chicago

Department of History

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Professor Christopher Manning joins President’s Cabinet to address diversity at Loyola

Interim President John P. Pelissero invited Dr. Christopher Manning, Associate Professor of History, to join the President’s Cabinet to serve as an advisor on diversity at the end of fall semester. Spurred by the protests on the lack diversity at University of Missouri, Loyola undergraduate students led a peaceful demonstration in solidarity last November. The demonstration sparked a response from President Pelissero, who promised action in the new year with a strategic plan titled, “Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World.” Plan 2020 mission is intended to guide the University from 2015 to its sesquicentennial anniversary in 2020.

An integral part of the mission is to create a campus environment that is inclusive and encourages diversity. To do so, Dr. Manning was invited to serve as an advisor to streamline strategies that will help achieve Loyola’s end goal. Recently, Dr. Manning took part in creating Loyola’s new Diversity and Inclusion website. This site is designed to serve as a valuable resource for students and includes information pertinent to improving diversity at Loyola. One of the major points Dr. Manning is working on is increasing African American enrollment from the Chicago metro area, a feat that Dr. Manning believes can happen quickly. “I didn’t want to do the job if the only thing that I was going to do was sort of to be a representative at the meetings and just reporting back. I had four sets of specific policy initiatives that I wanted to work on as well.” As part of the executive council on diversity at Loyola, Dr. Manning is familiar with organizations on campus that deal with diversity within the faculty and enrollment.

The four policy initiatives that Dr. Manning hopes Loyola will institute are as follows:

  • To improve on diversity in faculty hiring.
  • To improve diversity in undergraduate and graduate enrollment.
  • To reform recruitment at the undergraduate level to include more African American students from the Chicago metro area.
  • To develop research models by studying other peer institutions-- some locally and some nationally-- and find out what works in those models and then offer a model or a set of suggestions for Loyola.

Currently, Dr. Manning is working with Loyola’s education department to develop focus groups that will look at recruitment. Dr. Manning explained, “If we’re going to make a serious effort to recruit African American students from Chicago, we need to know what they think of the institution and what they want from it. Right now we honestly don’t know. The step to talk to them specifically has not occurred.”

The plan is to develop focus groups in six different high schools on Chicago’s South and West sides. Dr. Manning and his team will interview about 100 African American students who qualify for Loyola education standards to see what they think about Loyola as a possible choice after high school. They will also interview guidance counselors to get more of an idea of what high schools are saying about Loyola. Once the data is collected, Dr. Manning will present the information to interim President Pelissero, the Provost, and the Office of Enrollment before the end of his term as advisor on June 4. When asked about how to take action, Dr. Manning replied, “I think it’s very difficult for me to imagine that we wouldn’t be able to take steps immediately to one: change aspects of our culture to make it a place that they would like to be [a part of] and two: figure out how to more appropriately, and directly, communicate, interact and market ourselves to that target group.” The focus groups will take place in early spring, and Dr. Manning invites history graduate students who are interested in volunteering to contact him. “It would be interesting look at real world applications of oral technique, the taking of testimony technique that we study in the graduate class.”

Dr. Christopher Manning is an Associate Professor and Undergraduate Programs Director in the History Department and a member of the Rostenkowski Archives Advisory Committee. His first book, the Ties That bind: William L. Dawson and the Limits of Black Electoral Leadership in the Twentieth Century (2009), examines African American politics in twentieth century Chicago. Dr. Manning is currently working on two book projects, one is tentatively titled N.O.L.A: An Oral History of the Hurricane Katrina Volunteers which examines the volunteer mobilization in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005; the second is a memoir entitled Army Brat: A Memoir of Racial Identity and Life as a Military Child.