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Black Scholar Named a UCI Dean : School Moves to Reverse Minority Hiring Problems

Times Staff Writer

UC Irvine, moving to reverse a troubled record in recruiting and keeping minority faculty members, has named as dean of UCI Extension a black scholar who powered the expansion of similar programs in Florida and Illinois.

Melvin E. Hall, former dean of Continuing Education at Florida Atlantic University, will oversee UCI’s extension branch, which offers more than 1,000 courses and serves nearly 25,000 students each year. Hall, who will be paid $84,000 annually, replaces founding dean Richard Baisden, who recently retired after 23 years in the post.

Hall, who enlarged extension programs at other universities by involving private businesses, said Monday that he will use the same approach to build UCI’s already self-supporting program.

“I want to broaden the scope of our work with local industries, to go out to firms and find out how we can assist in the training and educational needs of their staffs,” he said. Hall said he also wants to draw into the extension program UCI instructors “who could use our classes as a resource to try out new ideas.”

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Executive Vice Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien called Hall’s selection “one very important step for us. He is the first dean of African-American origin, and he joined us because of the tremendous potential opportunity here.”

Chancellor Jack W. Peltason called Hall “a highly competent professional who happens to be black.”

Hall, who holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology, took a new direction in his career in 1982 when he turned from the classroom to administration and the diverse terrain of continuing education.

“I was a classic faculty type, a professor teaching in research and statistics design,” Hall recalled. “I became interested in extension because I like the administrative challenge and the variety associated with extension. I learn a lot more doing this.”

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Now 38, Hall got an early start in academia--he enrolled in the University of Illinois at age 16, completed a master’s degree at 22 and entered administration at age 32, when he was named director of continuing education and off-campus programs at Sangamon State University in Springfield, Ill. He became dean of continuing education at Florida Atlantic when he was 34.

UCI Ombudsman Ron Wilson said Hall will bring a new perspective to the university’s Dean’s Council, an influential body that until now was composed of white males.

UCI has lost several minority faculty members in recent years, and as of last fall had only five tenured black professors among 637 faculty members who have or are eligible for tenure. Some of those who left charged that the university did a poor job of retaining and promoting minority staff members. “Hall is someone who comes here with a point of view that will be attractive to a broad constituency,” Wilson said.

“We were slow to come to the realization that we had a problem, but we are moving aggressively to correct that,” Wilson said. “I applaud this appointment, but that is different from standing up and yelling ‘Bravo.’ That won’t happen until we see more minorities and women hired and retained.”

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Hall said he will assist UCI’s minority faculty recruiting effort by using “informal networks” that he developed among colleagues in the Midwest and Southeast.

“I hope I’m in a position to help,” he said. “It’s certainly a situation where if you’re not increasing your minority faculty, you’re losing them.”


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