Black Faculty

The list of Black faculty achievements continues from here, with the appointment of Lynda M. Freeman to the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho Medical School Program (WWAMI) at the University in 2016, becoming the first Black woman to do so.1 This achievement is yet another that has set the precedent for the continued recruitment of Black faculty members and increasing the diversity of the campus.

Helane Davis was the first woman and African-American tenured associate professor to become the director of the Law Library.

Professor Shaakirrah Sanders, a professor of law at the Boise campus College of Law was the first Black woman, and second person of color, to achieve the rank of full professor at the University of Idaho in 2018.2 She is also the first African-American person, who is a descendant of slaves, to be promoted to the rank of full professor at the University of Idaho. Professor Sanders filed a lawsuit against the University and the former dean of the College of Law, Mark Adams, in 2019, citing that racial and gender discrimination prevented her from being hired as the associate dean at the College of Law.3 This lawsuit is still ongoing.

Dr. Sydney Freeman Jr. was hired in 2015 as an associate professor in the College of Education. He earned tenure in 2018 and was promoted to the rank of full professor in 2021. This made him the first African American man, who is a descendent of slaves, to be promoted to the rank of full professor at the University of Idaho.4 Dr. Freeman’s presence on campus has led to significant impacts in terms of promoting Black history and culture, with nearly every major Black initiative undertaken over the past four years having some trace of his involvement.

Dr. Freeman has also undertaken many other academic initiatives by himself, with one of his first being undertaken shortly after his arrival at the University of Idaho. For context in the following issue, the College of Education (before 2005) considered many of its faculty members to be more teaching focused, rather than research focused.

However, this model changed after 2005, with research funds being given to newer faculty members to aid in their research. This change eventually resulted in these newer faculty members receiving promotions before other faculty members who had been at the College of Education much longer. Dr. Freeman sought out to rectify this issue with the department, eventually finding three faculty members who were deserving of elevation, two of those members becoming full professors and the other to soon become a department chair.

Dr. Freeman developed a weekly virtual meeting titled “Freeman’s Virtual Research Lab,” which aimed at helping prepare graduate students for future research by getting those students to engage in writing research reports. The program has had great success, with four out of the five students advancing to earn their PhDs. This program acted as a precursor for a course called “Research Apprenticeship” at the University of Idaho, which has helped to impact doctoral students of all backgrounds, specifically in the fields of leadership and education study. He also was a leading advocating voice in preventing a departmental merge between the leadership and counseling departments.

As seen with Dr. Freeman’s example, these hirings have been a major step in helping to better diversify the predominantly White campus of the University of Idaho and have played a major role in driving the University towards better educating the community surrounding it. The Black faculty at the University have come together and established the first Black and Faculty Association on campus, in 2022, something that had been on their agenda since as early as 2020.5 It should be noted that this process of establishment was undertaken mostly by the Black faculty and staff themselves, with not much outside support. The employment of more Black faculty at the campus highlights the University of Idaho’s desire to diversify itself and to bring new resources to bear in doing so, but there have also been issues in this regard.


  1. Emily Pearce, “Working for Better Support of the Black Community in Moscow,” Argonaut, September 16, 2020,
  2. “Shaakirrah Sanders,” University of Idaho,
  3. Sanders v. Univ. of Idaho, F.Supp.3d, 2021 WL 3409668, at 16 (D. Ida. Aug. 3, 2021),
  4. Aleea Banda, “Sydney Freeman Jr. Makes History as First African American Man Descended from Slaves to Gain Full Professorship,” Argonaut, April 21, 2021,
  5. Paige Fiske, “Seeking Establishment at the UI Moscow Campus,” Argonaut, November 19, 2020,


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

The Seminal History and Prospective Future of Blacks at the University of Idaho Copyright © 2023 by Brody Gasper and Sydney Freeman Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.