With financial support from the $50 million faculty diversity initiative announced last week, the Yale Divinity School plans to step up its efforts in recruiting and retaining diverse faculty members.

YDS has self-supported most of its diversity efforts in the past, meaning that funding for diversity initiatives came from donations pegged specifically for use at the School. This is because YDS is one of seven Yale professional schools whose endowment is tracked separately within the total University endowment, meaning that it is responsible for managing its own budget. Under the $50 million University-wide initiative, however, YDS will now be able to apply for funding from the University to finance the hiring of diverse faculty for up to three years. Half of the necessary funding will come from the Provost’s Office, and the other half will be financed by YDS itself. YDS Dean Gregory Sterling praised the University-wide initiative, though he said building a diverse community requires efforts beyond just faculty recruitment.

“I think it is a great initiative and I am very pleased that the University is undertaking it, and that it has included all of Yale and not just select parts of Yale in this initiative,” Sterling said. He added that this is the first time the University will financially support YDS’ diversity efforts since he stepped into his position three years ago.

Sterling said YDS plans to apply for University funding so that if the School were to recruit exceptional candidates with competitive offers from other universities, YDS could access more financial resources than the School is typically allocated for hiring. Sterling added that YDS will have to supply half of the funding for a new faculty position for the first three years and be prepared to fully self-finance the hire after three years.

Divinity School professor Mary Moschella, who currently chairs the school’s Diversity Committee, said the University-wide initiative will provide a much-needed boost to YDS efforts in increasing faculty diversity. She added that faculty diversity is at the top of the committee’s list of priorities and is included among YDS’ five Strategic Plans for 2015, a set of goals ranging from bridging faith traditions to freeing students from debt.

Moschella said that in June, YDS hired professor Willie Jennings, a scholar in theology and race, as an associate professor of systematic theology and Africana Studies. In September, the School created a new position in Latina and Latino Christianity Studies and is now in the process of filling the position, Moschella added. Three of the four faculty members of color deal with issues of race, with one studying theology and race, one in race and literature and one in race and American history. The forth faculty member of color specializes in education among young African-American women. Among white faculty, one focuses on the relationship between Christianity and Islam, one specializes in Native Americans and two teach classes regularly on sexual orientation. Other academic interests among YDS faculty include Asian Christianity.

The committee has also engaged student input in its efforts to boost faculty diversity, and the student body at YDS elected four student representatives to the committee. Along with two staff members and three faculty members, the students attend meetings and report back to YDS’ Student Council, said Antonio Bravo DIV ’16, president of La Comunidad, a community of Latino, Latina and Hispanic students at the Divinity School.

Angel Aquino DIV ’16 said he has never had a Latino or Latina professor during his three years at the Divinity School.

“As far as I know, there are no Latina [or] Latino professors at YDS,” Aquino said.

Sterling said there are four additional ongoing searches for faculty positions at YDS. He added that the search committee in charge of these hirings reached out to leading figures in the respective fields, asking for nominations, particularly for those from minority groups. From that pool, YDS tries to nominate a diverse group of finalists, and Sterling said that among 12 finalists who visited YDS last year, only one was a white male. Ten percent of YDS’ full-time faculty members are people of color, 40 percent of its faculty are women and 25 percent come from abroad.

The University-wide faculty diversity initiative will also help boost the YDS’ faculty makeup by financing the creation of an entirely new position, Sterling said. Currently, the funding of a new position would either be donor-driven — meaning the School’s endowment covers all the expenses related to the creation a new position — or be financed by reallocating resources internally.

Sterling acknowledged that retaining faculty members of color is challenging, given that many institutions compete to hire them. He said the University-wide funding will help YDS provide an attractive counter-offer if YDS faculty were to leave the school for better-paid positions.

“We hired [a faculty member of color] from Duke this last year. We poached, and we were able to get this person to come,” Sterling said. “Princeton tried to get this person and we beat Princeton in this case. But I don’t imagine that this is the end of it — that is, I’m sure that this person will be approached by other institutions down the line.”

Sterling added that although faculty diversity is one of the most pressing needs at Yale right now, these efforts have to go hand-in-hand with cultivating a diverse student body. Faculty members will not be interested in coming to Yale if the student body is homogenous, Sterling said.

Based on a research study conducted and published in September 2014 by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that targets expanding opportunities for women, African-Americans account for 6.9 percent of total doctoral degrees earned in 2011–12 in the United States. Latinas and Latinos account for 5.4 percent and Asian-Americans for 10.49 percent.