History professor’s tenure makes Augustana history


Linh Tran

Dr. Lauren Hammond Ford teaches History-124 Shades of Black/Brown.

Kayla Palliser

At the beginning of the 2022-23 academic year, Dr. Lauren Hammond Ford made Augustana history by becoming the first Black woman to earn tenure in the school’s 163-year history. Since she was a child, Hammond Ford has asked critical questions about history books. She became passionate about uplifting marginalized voices through the power of historical storytelling. Hammond Ford is an associate professor of history and the co-coordinator of Latin American and Latinx Studies. She’s taught at Augustana since 2016 and will become the chair of the history department in the fall of 2024.

According to Hammond Ford, history is an avenue to justice. Hammond Ford demonstrates her commitment to justice through the history department, on campus and in the local community.

“When you see her, she’s just gentle, kind, soft spoken and unassuming. But she’s very clear on her purpose,” Dr. Monica Smith, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, said. “Her work transcends the history department. Her work is in the social life of students, in the spiritual life and health of the Quad Cities.”

Hammond Ford’s passion for history began when she was a child, listening to her father talk about history and reading historical fiction books, and she became curious about the history she was taught in the classroom.

“When I was in 4th grade taking social studies, I asked my teacher why there weren’t any Black people in our history book, and she didn’t really have an answer for me,” Hammond Ford said. “I think my love for history and me noticing that African Americans were largely absent in the historical narrative are two of the things that led me to pursue a degree in history.”

Hammond Ford emphasizes the voices of marginalized groups in her courses. She teaches classes within Africana studies, gender studies and Latin American studies. In all her classes, she uses a 25 page document she calls “Dr. H’s guide to historical competency,” designed to clearly explain the work historians do and create greater equity among students with different experiences with history classes.

Although she attended a graduate school at the University of Texas-Austin, Hammond Ford prefers the small class sizes and department collaboration of small liberal arts colleges when she teaches history. In her classes, she prefers building closer relationships with her students and emphasizes discussion between students over larger lecture halls.

When she’s not teaching, Hammond Ford enjoys cooking Caribbean food, reading historical fiction and mystery books and traveling. She has traveled to the Dominican Republic, Spain, Jamaica and Mexico and incorporates international relations into her lessons.

“If she wasn’t here, we would be missing several continents,” Dr. Jane Simonsen, professor of history and gender studies, said. “She helps immensely with our offerings in terms of the global scope [and] the connections between the U.S. and other nations.”

Hammond Ford is very involved in service on and off campus. Because there is only a small number of faculty who are Black, many people seek her out as a mentor. She said she has been learning how to say no to certain requests so she can fully commit to what she says yes to.

“When you are one of very few Black professors on campus, there are a lot of demands on your time,” Simonsen said. “Students see her as a resource. We have many more African American students than professors, so for them to find someone that they feel like they can talk freely to, she’s a person that they go to.”

According to Smith, Hammond Ford pays particular attention to improving the quality of education Augustana provides and the overall student experience at Augustana in and out of the classroom.

“She’s inspirational to me,” Smith said. “She’s always emerged as a strong voice and leader, specifically with respect to how the students are experiencing the college.”

Hammond Ford has served as the Black Student Union advisor for 3 years and said she looks for ways to advocate for students of color or offer support as they advocate for themselves. Now that she is tenured, she wants to use her permanent position to continue uplifting student voices.

“I am proud of myself, but I still have work to do,” Hammond Ford said. “There definitely is a sense of security, but I think for me, the sense of security is also so that I can be an advocate, particularly for students of color on campus.”

Hammond Ford has also taken strides to better experiences for faculty of color at Augustana. Hammond Ford and Dr. Michael Rogers, before he left the college, created the Black Faculty and Staff Advisory Council.

“It’s an employee resource group for all intents and purposes that was a collective for Black faculty and staff to be able to get together and get to know each other, to network [and] to be a support system for each other, both at the college and in the Quad Cities area,” Smith said.

Hammond Ford continues to work towards a better future for Augustana students, faculty and staff. She is currently part of the strategic planning commission, which creates a five-year plan for how Augustana wants to grow and present itself. According to Smith, Hammond Ford has been fully committed to the people and culture of Augustana for years, beyond the confines of the classroom.

“Her presence is in some ways both opposition to the past but also an expression of the contemporary institution and the future,” Smith said. “That’s what this tenure means for her, too. This is charting Augustana’s future in some ways.”

While Hammond Ford’s tenure is cause for celebration, the historical milestone her tenure represents calls into question why Augustana has never had a tenured Black woman before this year.

“I think the fact that it took so long says something about the institution,” Smith said. “Like have there not, before this, been enough Black women who’ve stayed around?”

It is long overdue for the institution, and indicates deep historical struggles for more diverse faculty representation at Augustana over the last century and a half. 

“It’s complex. I am definitely proud of myself, but I don’t think that I thought I would be the first anything in 2023,” Hammond Ford said. “While I am glad and thankful to be the first tenured Black woman at Augustana, I definitely hope I’m not the last.”