Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Diversity Digest Volume 7, Number 4

Diversity Digest
Volume 7,
Number 4

Download our print issue (PDF)
Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Learning Through Evaluation: The James Irvine Foundation Campus Diversity Initiative (CDI) Project
James Irvine Foundation’s Campus Diversity Initiative
Diversity Climate Surveys:
Worth the Effort
Unleashing the Power of Metaphor: Pepperdine University
Implications of Prop 54
Faculty Involvement
Enhancing Diversity: University of Southern California
More than Bittersweet Success: University of the Pacific
Curricular Transformation
Institutionalizing Diversity: Occidental College
Educating for a Just Society: University of San Francisco
Making Diversity News
Media Watch
Teaching Students Media Skills
AAC&U Evaluation Resources
Irvine CDI Evaluation Resources
DATA: Capturing Hopes

Unleashing the Power of Metaphor: Moving from a Program-Centered Focus Toward a Systems View of Campus Diversity

By J. Goosby Smith, assistant professor of management and coordinator of assessment for Seaver Diversity Council, Seaver College, Pepperdine University
Pepperdine University

Seaver College of Pepperdine University is using the generative power of metaphor to transform its approach to campus diversity. We have adopted the metaphor of organizations as organic systems to symbolize the vital role that diversity plays in our mission of educational excellence. As one of the first campuses to be funded under the Irvine Foundation’s new process, we see ourselves as pioneers in using our diversity initiative as a catalyst for organizational learning. The metaphor has fostered a shift from viewing campus diversity as a set of activities to seeing diversity as an organizational learning tool.

In this model, the contributions
of people of color are used to critically examine and improve the main work of the organization, rather than tangentially alter it.

Initially, our focus centered on implementing individual programs and determining how they might be evaluated to “account for” program expenditures and to understand participant reactions and experiences. This perspective reflected a mix of what Thomas and Ely (1996) refer to as discrimination and fairness and access and legitimacy paradigms. The first paradigm potentially downplays critical aspects of diversity by advocating a color-blind ideal; while the second views diversity as a means to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The Foundation requested that we create a broad-based campus team to oversee our CDI work. We responded by convening a Diversity Council comprised of various diversity program directors. The Council was also charged to design an approach for evaluating our CDI. As we developed our evaluation plan, the Foundation and the Evaluation Resource Team further challenged us to take a systems view of our CDI. This required us to consider our evaluation efforts as a holistic learning experience for both our students and the institution.

We broadened our perspectives on creating and maintaining an inclusive and diverse campus climate and now view it as a developmental process. We collectively reflect upon and evaluate how all of our diversity initiatives inextricably link to our mission and reinforce the major work of the University. This is a brief story in our continuing journey in what Thomas and Ely (1996) refer to as the learning and effectiveness paradigm of diversity. In this model, the contributions of people of color are used to critically examine and improve the main work of the organization, rather than tangentially alter it.

Our first response to the challenge of developing a systems view was to expand membership in the Diversity Council so that it is now an 18-person, cross-functional, interdisciplinary team with senior administration, faculty, staff, and student representation. While the University’s strategic direction was clear, we did not have an operational diversity strategic plan. By adopting the metaphor of an organic system composed of complex, dynamically interdependent parts interacting with the external environment, we were able to understand better the tasks ahead and to focus attention on: a) how to articulate what a “healthy” Seaver College might look like and to assess how healthy we are; and b) how to evaluate progress toward becoming healthier.

We explored these tasks in three off-campus retreats. The first retreat was designed to make the metaphor operational and therefore a guide for our work. The second retreat was used to develop our evaluation strategies and refine the Foundation-required evaluation plan. The third retreat was used to analyze the data we collected through our Digital Portfolio Assessment Project 2005 (DPAP 2005, see page 15).

Once we adopted a systems approach, we were able to recognize the interdependency between the University’s core mission of providing an excellent education in a Christian environment and our diversity goals. Focusing our evaluation efforts on the larger institutional goal helped us to envision a more inclusive learning environment. We could create such an environment through coordinated programming strategies that target campus climate, teaching, action research, and service. Brief examples of efforts in each area are given below and their interconnections are described.

Campus Climate

The campus climate for diversity is being improved in a number of ways, starting with leadership from the top. Pepperdine’s president consistently communicates the importance of an inclusive and diverse campus climate in written and verbal communications to the campus. Such leadership from the president helps establish campus diversity efforts as important to the University as a whole.

In addition, administrators, staff, and religious studies faculty worked together to formulate and present to the campus a theological rationale for valuing diversity. Anchoring diversity in our


values and educational philosophy enables the campus community to see more clearly how diversity is fundamental to all of our work. Establishing two campus-wide convocations and a student leadership forum focused on diversity’s impact on contemporary society was another way to communicate the important educational role that diversity plays. The two convocations broke the year’s attendance record, and the student newspaper, The Graphic, ran several articles that addressed the various CDI components.

In fall 2003, the University faculty-wide conference will have a breakout session exploring the value of diversity. These outcomes and plans demonstrate that our strategies focused on improving the climate for diversity are engaging the broader campus community to capitalize on the link between diversity and our mission of strengthening lives for purpose, service, and leadership.

Teaching and Research

The Social Action and Justice (SAAJ) Colloquium debuted in fall 2002. This two-course series is a service-based, social justice oriented option for first-year students that meets general education English requirements. We also developed an African American Studies minor and a Women’s Studies Major. These curriculum changes were developed in direct response to the results of previous DPAP analysis.

Although not funded by the Irvine grant, the American Experience course, which focuses on diversity in the United States, was developed during this same period and will be inaugurated fall 2003. All freshmen are required to take this course offering. We underscore the importance of diversity institutionally by offering a weeklong Diversity Workshop to enhance the ability of faculty and staff to interact effectively with people different from themselves.

Our efforts do not end with
the transmission of knowledge. We focus on generating new knowledge and on determining how diversity influences
this work.

Our efforts do not end with the transmission of knowledge. We focus on generating new knowledge and on determining how diversity influences this work. A number of faculty are conducting research on both externally and internally funded diversity efforts. Some questions they are pursuing include: To what extent does Multicultural Theatre improve students’ intercultural competence? How is human diversity addressed across Pepperdine’s curriculum and what is its effect on student learning outcomes? What is the role of diversity in human resource accounting? Do online discussions when communicators are anonymous enable more honest dialogue on sensitive topics? With these questions, investigators seek to determine the learning outcomes of various kinds of interactions.


As a Christian university, service to the community is a central component of the education we offer our students. Our CDI projects are designed to foster a deeper understanding of the many factors that affect communities of color, while at the same time providing service to these communities. PepReach and College Bound are outreach programs in which Pepperdine students and faculty tutor and encourage students in economically disadvantaged schools to attend college. The SAAJ Colloquium mentioned above integrates service learning in Los Angeles communities and provides a Los Angeles Urban Reality Tour for Volunteer Center student workers, professors, and students as part of coursework.

The studies and teaching efforts reinforce each other in that both the processes and programs of Pepperdine’s CDI serve as the basis for empirical research by faculty. Students and faculty alike deepen their understanding of the economic, cultural, and geographic contexts of communities of color through their interactions with them in service activities and reflections. The synergy among these efforts serves to further link diversity to the institution’s core mission of educational excellence.

The Journey Begins Anew

At our annual kickoff meeting for the 2003-04 academic year, the Diversity Council will re-examine the assessment retreat themes to formulate recommendations, examine our grant goals relative to our model of health, and determine how best to communicate our recommendations to the larger University community.

We expect to take the lessons learned about diversity at Seaver College and demonstrate to the University that these efforts are vital to achieving our educational mission. In so doing we will move closer to Thomas and Ely’s learning and effectiveness paradigm and what the Foundation and the Evaluation Resource Team have challenged us to do—use diversity as a catalyst to become a learning organization. Thus, the learning journey continues.

The Digital Portfolio Assessment Project 2005: Using the Online ImmixJournal to Qualitatively Assess the Campus Climate’s Fostering of Diversity

By Henry Gambill, director of assessment/lecturer of English, special assistant to the vice president of planning, information, and technology, Pepperdine University

Since 1994, Pepperdine University’s Digital Portfolio Assessment Project (DPAP) has conducted qualitative, longitudinal studies of cognitive and affective student learning and development. With support from the James Irvine Campus Diversity Initiative (CDI), DPAP’s newest four-year study, entitled the DPAP 2005*, examines the transformation of students’ cultural perspectives in response to a curriculum and co-curriculum that embed diversity topics, issues, and events.

While previous DPAP studies collected exhaustive portfolios of student work, the DPAP 2005 requires students only to submit journal responses to writing prompts and participate in yearly focus groups. The assessment office’s student web master designed immixJournal and placed it on Pepperdine’s Web site http://assess.pepperdine.edu/immix.

“Immix” means to commingle, which reflects the Web site’s interactive nature. The password-protected Web site allows DPAP 2005 students to respond online to writing prompts, as well as to read and reply to other project members’ journal entries.

Students can adopt aliases as their identities and assign icons or graphics as representations of these aliases. Fellow DPAP students can learn a student’s gender, ethnicity, and major by clicking on an icon or graphic. When a student reads another’s journal entry and posts a reaction, the immixJournal software automatically emails notification to the student who primed the response.

As mentioned, the DPAP 2005 also collects focus group data and publishes session transcripts on the immixJournal Web site. While all of the project’s focus groups were originally intended to be tape-recorded, face-to-face sessions, immixJournal now also hosts an alternative virtual focus-group format that captures qualitative data from project participants taking part in Pepperdine’s international programs. The virtual focus group feature allows a “round table” conversation to take place in real time between the moderator in Malibu and students in Buenos Aires, Florence, Heidelberg, and London. Because the focus group exchange is written, the session is instantaneously transcribed—saving the University from expensive transcription fees.

Each year, the focus group moderator poses the same questions to the student participants to maintain comparability of the data. Students in the focus groups have discussed, among other things, the diversity education received in the classroom, their participation in CDI-sponsored co-curricular activities, and their observations of intentional or unintentional discriminatory language and behavior. In the virtual focus groups conducted with DPAP students abroad, the students discussed their experiences as American students living in diverse cultures at the height of the war in Iraq.

In a retreat setting, the University’s broadly representative Diversity Council assesses the DPAP data, along with assessment data from other CDI-sponsored programs; the discourse is indeed rich and enlightening. At subsequent campus meetings, the Council will draft a report of our findings that will be shared with the University’s senior leadership, as well as the larger campus community.

In the fall 2003 semester, the assessment office hopes to launch another diversity-centered, longitudinal study with willing participants from the class of 2007. If the project is approved, the immixJournal Web site will again host the study, but this time all focus groups, even those with students on the Malibu campus, will be virtual. We want to investigate whether the students’ exchanges will be even more forthright if their identities are anonymous.

* The date signifies the expected year of participants’ graduation.


Questions, comments, and suggestions regarding Diversity & Democracy should be directed to Kathryn Peltier Campbell at campbell@aacu.org.
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