“Ask For What You Need”: Latest Cohort of DITE Convenes in Washington D.C.

On Tuesday, the Diversity Initiative for Tenure in Economics kicked off its spring meeting in Washington, D.C. The DITE program, which provides mentorship and workshops to aid the transition from junior faculty status to associate professor for economists from underrepresented groups (most notably, Black, Latinx, and Native American economists), is currently in the midst of working with its 15th cohort of scholars. 

As William A. Darity Jr., director for both the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University and the DITE program, made clear in his opening address, DITE launched in 2008 in response to analyzing promotion patterns in economics in academia and building a better support network for these underrepresented groups.  

Of course, Darity said, this is “an issue that is being increasingly suppressed in the present moment.” Nevertheless, he highlighted that DITE has had great success in bolstering “the representational diversity” of the economics profession, with dozens of alumni of the program having achieved tenure across the country.

After a morning of networking between DITE mentors and fellows, the latest meeting kicked off Tuesday with a keynote address from Kwabena Gyimah-Brempong, the economics program director of the Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SBE/SES) at the U.S. National Science Foundation, one of the sponsors of DITE along with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Regaling the room with a series of informed anecdotes from his time as both an applicant and a reviewer of grant applications, Gyimah-Brempong commanded the room with a series of thoughts on how to best apply for grant funding, providing both an overview of these opportunities as well as advice on how to best access these opportunities. “Ask for what you need to do your work,” he encouraged, telling the scholars in the audience to not constrain themselves when applying for the resources necessary for their important research. 

In the afternoon, junior faculty and postdocs began presentations on their current research, which spanned a range of topics. Jean-Baptiste Tondji, assistant professor of economics at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, who shared a forthcoming co-authored paper entitled “The Reciprocity Set.” The paper discussed a model for group decision-making, aiming to create a system of cooperative protocols that maximize stability, efficiency, and optimality. 

The final two speakers of the day were both Cook Center postdoctoral associates talking about changes in technology production—just in very different eras. Ayinmi Muma presented on “Manufacturing Change: The Invisible Work of Disruptive Technology Production,” exploring how new tools, like 3-D printers and similar technology, require the institutional work of sustained investment and creativity from companies to incorporate into existing processes. Will Damron concluded the day’s talks, presenting on "The Political Economy of Child Labor Regulation,” an examination of textile firms in North Carolina in the early 20th century and analyzing how state and local-level changes to child labor laws affected the labor market and employer productivity.

This week’s DITE conference will continue Wednesday and conclude Thursday. Please stay tuned for further updates by following the Cook Center on social media.