While faculty members at the University of Idaho take ten to twelve years on the tenure track to earn the rank of Full Professor, Dr. Sydney Freeman Junior has been able to earn that rank in five years and seven months. Freeman Jr. is 36 years old though the average age for getting promoted to Full Professor is 55 years old.
This promotion also makes him the first African-American man, descended from slaves, to be a professor at the University of Idaho, Idaho News reported.
Dr. Wudneh Admassu was the first-ever person of African descent, born and raised in Ethiopia, to earn the rank of Full Professor at the university while Professor Shaakirrah Sanders still holds the record as the only Black woman Full Professor, earning the title in 2019.
Freeman Jr. received the news of his appointment at his home where he has been teaching his students virtually. After sharing the exciting news with his students, he took to Twitter to share his joy, wearing a Full Professor T-shirt and beaming with smiles.
“Humbled to share that I will be the 1st African American (American Descendant of Slaves) man to be promoted to the rank of Full Professor at the University of Idaho, the state’s flagship research university. I earned this rank in 5 years and 7 months on the tenure track.”
Freeman Jr. knew he always wanted to be in academia, so after graduating from the Auburn University in 2011 with a degree in Higher Education Administration, he began looking for jobs in academia. In just 17 days, he was hired by the Tuskegee University as a Director in Teaching and Learning Center, a position he held for three and half years.
His journey to Full Professor at the University of Idaho began after he got the opportunity to work as an Associate Professor. The 36-year-old believes that the onus lies on the university and other disciplines in academia to be more inclusive and hire, promote and retain faculty of color because that is an assured way for growth in any institution.
“If we want to see Idaho grow and be more inclusive, we have to bring that inclusion in and so it’s important for us to not only have conversations about it but actually invest in diversifying faculty and staff but also retaining them,” Freeman Jr. said.