Faculty-Driven Curricular Change
By Jill Schennum, assistant professor of anthropology,
County College of Morris
County College of Morris
County College of Morris (CCM), a community college
in Morris County, New Jersey, has worked to integrate
a robust diversity education into every degree program
we offer. To do this, CCM has built on the college’s
earlier diversity efforts, which included a required
diversity-certified course for the liberal arts degree.
Although this requirement was a good one, it did not
sufficiently involve all CCM students in an education
that incorporated diversity and global awareness.
To achieve this goal, we hoped to build wide faculty
support for infusing diversity and global-awareness
issues into courses across the curriculum. Through our
three-year Bildner Family Foundation grant, we sought
to develop an approach to diversity education that met
the needs of CCM’s diverse degree programs. Accordingly,
we created three volunteer-based faculty task forces,
one in each academic division. The task forces were
to assess the current level of diversity education at
CCM in each division, put together a report to be reviewed
by an outside consultant, and then generate an action
plan of recommendations for initiating a more pervasive
curricular transformation. The action plans were eventually
submitted to the division deans and to the vice president
for academic affairs so they could choose specific projects
During the first year of the Bildner project, task
forces worked to define diversity education, construct
goals for such an education, and develop initial assessment
tools for determining how CCM was progressing. Assessment
tools included a faculty survey, a student survey, a
survey of community leaders, interviews of department
chairpersons, and student focus groups. The assessment
process took longer than expected, continuing well into
the second year of the project. However, looking back,
this lengthy process may well have been a necessary
part of building commitment, dialogue, and consensus.
The process generated a rich dialogue within committees
about the definition and goals of diversity education.
Communicating assessment results to wider faculty audiences
also fomented a much wider conversation throughout the
college about diversity education.
Over the three-year grant, faculty were exposed to
a wide variety of speakers, seminars, conferences, and
a series of intensive summer institutes. Such forums
were crucial for exposing faculty to contemporary theoretical
perspectives and pedagogical approaches to diversity
teaching and learning. Our local, campus-based summer
institutes, in which faculty worked toward infusing
diversity issues into one or more courses, were well
attended and produced concrete curricular transformation.
The institutes, ongoing seminars, and conferences enriched
faculty understanding and deepened the diversity expertise
on campus. At the end of the three-year project, CCM
had developed a diversity consultant team of experts
who were able to deliver on-campus seminars, as well
as provide faculty development to other campuses.
Why Our Program Worked
The success of this project was directly related to
faculty development opportunities, communication efforts
on campus, committee work, and faculty participation
in cocurricular diversity events. This multifaceted
approach to bringing diversity issues onto campus resulted
in an ever-widening network of involved and committed
faculty. Because the goal of the project was transformation
of course curricula, building faculty interest in and
commitment to diversity education was crucial. Faculty
need to be given opportunities to generate ideas, participate
in discussions, develop plans and programs, and get
involved in cocurricular events if they are to effectively
transform the courses they teach.
In the last year of the project, evidence of curricular
transformation was apparent. Sixty-two individual courses
across the college had been revised by faculty. These
curricular transformations infused diversity issues
into a wide variety of courses across degree programs.
The project performed an assessment of the efficacy
of the infusion and published assessment results for
the wider CCM faculty audience. A booklet about the
infusion projects also provided faculty throughout the
college with models and ideas for infusing diversity
issues into curricula.
The support of senior administrators has been just
as important as the financial support from the Bildner
Family Foundation. Faculty involvement is more likely
to thrive if top leaders make diversity a priority.
In addition, we found it makes a difference if top leaders
step forward to assess and implement diversity action
plans, while also recognizing faculty for their efforts
to incorporate diversity into all the assigned courses.
Administrative support, combined with the empowerment
of faculty to design programs, has enabled CCM to infuse
diversity across the campus and at multiple levels.