In its 1990 mission statement, North Seattle Community College made a commitment "to create a climate that affirms and endorses our diversity." The college further pledges "to employ a staff that reflects the diversity of its students,...to implement multicultural and gender-balanced education throughout the curriculum, to provide services and instruction that address learning and physical disabilities, to support faculty and staff development, and to make the community aware that the school welcomes diversity."
With this clarity of vision, at a 1992 retreat called by then-president Peter Ku, campus leaders developed a five-year plan for the college. It set specific goals, timetables, and action steps to guide its diversity work. The plan addressed a broad array of issues including student enrollment, retention and completion rates, student employment, institutional climate, and curricular change.
North Seattle set up a Campus Diversity Committee that includes faculty, staff members, and administrators. One of the co-chairs of this committee is also a member of the president's executive cabinet and therefore facilitates communication between the two bodies. The current president, Dr. Constance W. Rice, has diversity as a standing agenda item for her cabinet meetings.
The committee began its work in 1995. It explored refining the interviewing process for all job applicants to gain knowledge about their experience with issues of diversity. It also awarded several grants to faculty and staff members pursuing one or more of the goals of the plan including course development for the campus's multicultural requirement with learning outcomes that include:
The requirement also lays out specific curricular goals: multicultural courses must promote a more reasoned understanding of cultural/ethnic/racial differences and similarities in the U.S. and focus on at least three of the five predominant cultures of the U.S.--African American, Asian American, Chicano and Latino American, European American, and Native American--and their role in the formation of the American experience.
Multicultural courses must provide opportunities for group activities in which students gain experience in dealing with perspectives other than their own and consider the multidimensional nature of cultures. Finally, instructors need to assist students in dealing constructively with issues of cultural/ethnic diversity and conflict.
To support the requirement and the action plan, North Seattle has developed numerous faculty and staff development opportunities and has administered several surveys to measure the campus climate relative to diversity issues.
David Mitchell, vice president of instruction, believes that careful planning was crucial to North Seattle in moving forward on diversity because it provided a foundation and a direction for the college as it engaged in research, study, and discussions about cultural pluralism.
When a college or university adopts a diversity requirement or revises its mission statement to include diversity, it is important to explain to the public why this is a valuable and wise investment of time and resources. Following are tips for a public education strategy to communicate the value of diversity in education.