Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Diversity Digest Volume 8, Number 3

Diversity Digest
Volume 8,
Number 3

Download our print issue (PDF)
Curricular Transformation
Shared Futures: Global Learning and Social Responsibility
Recasting Religious Studies at Beloit College
Hybrid Student Identities: A Resource
for Global Learning
Global Education Continuum—
Four Phases
New Global Studies Degree Combines Liberal Arts and Preprofessional Disciplines
Globalizing the Curriculum
Campus-Community Involvement
Student Civic Engagement at Home
and Abroad
Looking Within to See the World
Institutional Leadership
Shared Futures? The Interconnections
of Global and U.S. Diversity
Connecting the Global and the Local: The Experience of Arcadia University
Partnership in Education for a Sustainable Future
Student Experience
Engaging Diversity on the Homogeneous Campus: The Power
of Immersion Experiences
Crossing Borders: Interdisciplinary Centers and Global Learning
Resources for Shared Futures
The Curricular Disconnect

Looking Within to See the World

By Loren Schmidt, program chair, English and humanities program, and professor of English and philosophy; and Mary James, assistant professor of English, Heritage University

Students at Heritage University

Students at Heritage University

In 2001, Heritage University began participating in the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Liberal Education and Global Citizenship project. This project provided faculty and staff with the opportunity to engage in curricular redesign in order to increase understanding of local and global diversity and to expand the service-learning components of the curriculum. The Global Citizenship team began its curriculum redesign by infusing local and global issues into the Heritage Core, a course required of all Heritage students.

Heritage University is located in the Yakima Valley, home to the Yakama* Nation for millennia. The Valley has seen many waves of immigration, each of which has contributed to its diverse cultural blend. Anglo and European Americans as well as African Americans came in multiple waves for multiple reasons. Some followed the Oregon Trail west in the 1800s; others fled the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and came here as agricultural laborers. Similarly, Mexican Americans have been here for over a century, but beginning with the braceros of the World War II-era, a steady stream of agricultural workers has moved north to the Valley. Several towns in the Lower Yakima Valley—notably Wapato, less than ten miles from the Heritage campus—also have large concentrations of Japanese Americans and Filipino Americans, some of whom arrived more than seventy years ago. Heritage University demographics reflect the surrounding community, with Hispanic and Native American students together comprising more than 60 percent of the undergraduate student body.

Although educating students about those diverse cultures has always been an intended outcome of the Heritage Core, the Global Citizenship team posed the question of how to lead students to view the local cultures from a global perspective. As one strategy, the team chose to invite local scholars such as Patricia Koto and Raymond Navarro to give classroom lectures about the characteristics and experiences of some of the region’s cultural groups. This initiative sought to help students view the seemingly isolated world of the Yakima Valley from a global perspective.

Patricia Koto’s presentation on the Japanese American experience wove together many course goals. She connected her family story to the historical events that resulted in Japanese immigration to the United States. Her discussion of the changing Issei, Nisei, and Sansei generational experiences resonated with all the students—both those new to the United States and those with little knowledge of their cultural roots. Students from Indian nations particularly identified with the discussion of World War II internment camps. Student Cristina Bonewell responded to Koto’s presentation by saying, “I was completely oblivious to so many aspects of the Japanese treatment during the war. I may have gone through all my life without knowing this information. . . . The views expressed gave me new perspectives as well as confirmations of other beliefs. These kinds of forums make it easier for me to live interculturally.”

Similarly, Raymond Navarro’s presentation on the Mexican American experience allowed students to reflect on how families living in a new culture change over time and apply new knowledge to their own culture’s experience. Navarro placed first-generation immigrants on one end of a continuum and “mainstream culture” on the other. He asked the students to name themselves, emphasizing the varied ways that Hispanic Americans describe their relationship to the United States—for example, Latino/Latina, Chicano/Chicana, Mexican, Mexican American—and linked those names to personal identifiers such as family, work, and religion. Student Reina Montes commented on Navarro’s talk, saying, “I have been able to examine my own cultural identity. This class has given me the opportunity to inquire more about my own Mexican culture. I have also been able to appreciate other cultures and respect them as well.”

Students examining the cultural history of the Yakima Valley found the concepts of diaspora and hegira particularly useful in understanding the motives behind the migrations of the Valley’s peoples (or, in the case of the Yakamas, the experience of others migrating into one’s ancestral homeland) as well as in recognizing how different motivations might result in different attitudes toward assimilation into a dominant “American” culture. These concepts helped many students better understand the history of cultural relationships, not only in the microcosm of the Yakima Valley but also in the larger world. The students’ enlightenment can best be seen in their mastery project related to their study of the Yakama Nation.

The mastery project for students in the Heritage Core highlights the transfer writing task. Students in the upper-level Heritage Core course write the same assignment as those exiting from the English composition sequence: a three-hour in-class writing assignment drawing on sources to discuss contemporary issues related to the debate over the sovereignty of Indian nations (for example, issues relating to hunting and fishing rights as well as political topics such as the ban on the sale of alcohol on the reservation and lands of the Yakama Nation). In both cases, the students have opportunities to explore the background of modern sovereignty debates and research specific issues prior to writing. However, whereas the four-year students have explored these issues for one or more years before this assignment, the transfer students may have encountered them only six weeks earlier. Hence, the Global Citizenship team asked, “Can we put a Heritage stamp on our transfer students?” The team also hoped to discover whether the revised curricula for the Core and other courses helped all levels of students to see these issues in global terms—by identifying, for instance, the Yakama Nation as a sovereign entity and connecting the local situation to issues in other parts of the globe, such as Canada and Latin America (origin of over 40 percent of Heritage students).

The initial results suggest that the knowledge faculty gained through the Global Citizenship project has made a difference for students. For example, far more students acknowledged that sovereignty for indigenous peoples is not just a local issue. Many cited similar issues for the native populations of Canada and Mexico, and some even linked them to distant venues such as South Africa and Central Asia. While faculty still have much to do to heighten global awareness in the place-bound students Heritage serves, they are making steady strides at helping students turn their eyes beyond the Yakima Valley by looking more analytically at the origins of those who live around the university.


* A decade ago, the Yakama Nation changed their official spelling from “Yakima” to “Yakama” because that spelling is used in the Treaty of 1855, the “constitution” that defines the nation from the Yakama point of view.

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