Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Faculty Involvement
Diversity Digest Volume 9, Number 2

Diversity Digest
Volume 9,
Number 2

Download our print issue (PDF)
Campus-Community Connections
Intercultural Learning for Inclusive Excellence
Why Allen and Joan Bildner and the Bildner Family Foundation Funded a Statewide Diversity Initiative
Learning to Listen as We Lead
Institutional Models That Cultivate Comprehensive Change
Curricular Transformation
Where Worlds Converge
Curricular Transformation through Collaborative Teaching
Intercultural Learning in First-Year Seminars
Designing Intercultural and Cross-cultural Spaces
Enhancing Collaborative Leadership of Faculty and Staff
Faculty-Driven Curricular Change
Diversity as Shared Practice
Dialogue Groups at Princeton University Library
Faculty Involvement
Epistles, Posters, and Pizza
Forging Campus-Community Connections
"Beyond Food"
Cross-cultural by Design
Student Experience
Something to Declare
Putting Student Voices in Public Spaces
Café Bergen
Institutional Leadership and Committment
Assessing Diversity Attitudes in First-Year Students
Infusing Cultural Competency into Health Professions Education

Diversity as Shared Practice

By Martha LaBare, dean of academic affairs, Patrick Lamy, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, and Sandy Van Dyk, associate professor of history and Africana studies and coordinator of general education, all at Bloomfield College

Bloomfield College

Bloomfield College

Since the late 1980s, Bloomfield College’s mission has emphasized the liberal arts tradition, the richness of our multiracial, multicultural student body, and the integral connections of diversity, democracy and liberal education. In 2002, the New Jersey Campus Diversity Initiative (NJCDI) offered Bloomfield a perfectly timed opportunity to broaden and deepen our practice and use diversity as an educational resource. Bloomfield’s seminars for professional and program development, which were supported by the Bildner Family Foundation as part of NJCDI, allowed the college to bring faculty and staff together as learners and teachers. The seminars took us beyond just collaborating on diversity programs and led to diversity-infused planning and reflective practice.

Faculty and Staff as Learners and Teachers

Bloomfield College used professional development to launch program development that was connected across the college. Faculty and staff were students together in a learning community, with shared assignments and projects. Our concept and vocabulary had evolved from “faculty development” programs to which staff were invited to “professional development” inclusive of faculty and staff.

Our NJCDI grant supported the seminars, individual research, and the development of a campus project. Each faculty member had one course reduction, and comparable support was given to staff. Our seminars were designed to teach about intercultural communication skills and expand knowledge of local and global cultures. We also sought to develop on-campus expertise “organically.”

Our premise was “You can’t give what you don’t have,” so in order to deepen our intellectual reserves, we studied new scholarship together for a semester, meeting for three hours each week. We rotated a new group of faculty and staff each semester for five semesters. Cumulatively, we involved more than half the faculty and many key administrators and staff. We started with our passions—in our disciplines, our teaching, our scholarship, our administrative work—and selected texts and consultants together. Topics included globalization, local and global connections, implicit culture and multicultural communication skills, student-centered pedagogies, diverse learning styles, and transformative education. We also used our own lives as texts, exploring our cultural heritages and confronting the challenges of prejudice; respect, honesty, and confidentiality were prerequisite.

We examined the cultures of our professions, acknowledging that academic disciplines have different worldviews, and that faculty and staff live on different calendars, weekly and annually. We explored how our race, gender, ethnicity, and other differences condition our status off and on campus, among ourselves and with our students. We foregrounded the diversity scholarship and existing expertise, rotating the chair of our seminar sessions and bringing in special presenters from our own ranks. We also created and revised courses and programs that drew on our individual areas of expertise and those of our colleagues and students. The work was driven by our mission and student-centered pedagogy.

Outcomes of the Seminars

Each participant committed to a specific goal—revision or creation of one course or program—but much more than this was accomplished. Our shared reflective practice let us blur boundaries of traditional academic roles and definitions. Connections across disciplines and programs, across academic and student affairs, and between the curriculum and cocurriculum increased exponentially as our work progressed.

New interdisciplinary programs resulting from our work include a Latino/Latin American/Caribbean studies minor, an international business concentration, an honors seminar on culture, community, and identity, and Freedom Summer activities (courses and college-wide programs in academic and student affairs commemorating the civil rights movement). The inclusive curriculum is strengthened by new courses like Cultural Encounters in Early America, New Jersey: A Sense of Place and People, and History and Problems of Globalization. New course content has been added as well: we have a new sociology reader on Latinos in the United States; new units on the South Asian diaspora in our Introduction to Hinduism and Introduction to Islam courses; and new segments on multicultural and global issues in our nursing courses. In addition, librarians have received training on cultural contexts and the diverse learning styles of a multicultural student body in the information age.

College-wide collaborations have also created Diversity All Year, which features two to four programs per week and is organized and presented by the diverse college community. Two recent programs included Talking Women’s Lives, which drew on personal narratives from the college, and Beyond Tolerance, which focused on religious tolerance. We have also increased services to international students, emphasized through career services how valuable diversity knowledge is in the workplace, and expanded outreach to the Latino student community.

College-wide collaboration was a distinguishing feature of the project, and it also became a lasting outcome. Within each seminar, across seminars in regular meetings, and through activities that grew beyond the seminars, we came to know each other and our resources better. Through new channels of communication, formal and informal, we strengthened our work. We have a transformed practice, and momentum.

Bloomfield’s diversity initiative has helped us to use diversity as a means to fulfill our mission, to become a community of learners, and to be a learning institution. Its impact is integrated throughout the college and will last long beyond the term of the project.

Questions, comments, and suggested resources should be directed to campbell@aacu.org.
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