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Getting to the Core of Diversity: Intercultural Studies and the CORE at Scripps College
By Alma Clayton-Pedersen, Vice President, Office of Education and Institutional Renewal


Scripps College
IT WOULD BE ACCURATE TO DESCRIBE THE INTERCULTURAL AND WOMEN'S STUDIES REQUIREMENTS OF ONE COURSE EACH AT SCRIPPS COLLEGE AS TYPICAL OF DIVERSITY REQUIREMENTS FOUND IN MANY COLLEGES, ESPECIALLY SMALL WOMEN'S COLLEGES. HOWEVER, WHEN COMBINED WITH DIVERSITY COMPONENTS OF THEIR THREE-COURSE CORE CURRICULUM IN INTERDISCIPLINARY HUMANITIES (CORE) REQUIREMENT, THE CURRICULUM ACTUALLY REVEALS THAT LEARNING ABOUT DIVERSITY IS PART OF THE STUDENTS' EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION. THIS MAKES THE SCRIPPS DIVERSITY CURRICULUM FAR FROM TYPICAL.

One faculty reported that a former dean in the 1970s decried at a college-wide faculty meeting that a college for women ought to have more courses on women and about women. This prompted the faculty to both transform existing courses to include women's issues and add courses focused on gender and women. Thus, the recent road to curriculum infusion and transformation was consistent with the college's culture of faculty ownership of the curriculum. It was the faculty that drove the transformation of the CORE beginning in 1994 as well as the more recent revision of the intercultural requirement. They also own the multifaceted review and implementation processes that began in 1996 and help assure that graduates have a deep understanding of the complex manifestations of our diverse society. While an intercultural requirement did not exist in the 1970s, the culture of curriculum transformation did, and this enables the CORE to evolve as its student body of just under 800 women grows more diverse.

The faculty determined that the intercultural requirement should focus on the four historically underrepresented populations in the United States (African Americans, Latina/o, Asian Americans, and American Indians). To meet the criteria for inclusion as an intercultural requirement or a women's studies requirement, courses must first "significantly examine intercultural issues," (Scripps Catalog, pg. 217). The faculty was intentional in having the first criteria focus on deep content knowledge about women's and intercultural connections and the second concentrate on U.S. groups. Although the current intercultural requirement eliminated a number of courses that fulfilled the previous "multicultural requirement," it instead focuses on a more narrow set of issues that the faculty believes can be explored in greater depth. It is this depth that enables students to gain an appreciation for the complexity of intercultural connections.


THE INTERCULTURAL AND WOMEN'S STUDIES REQUIREMENTS

Fifty percent or more of the course content focuses on intercultural or women's issues to fulfill each of the respective course requirements. The intercultural requirement has a second criterion that the course address underrepresented groups in the context of the United States. There are 32 courses offered at Scripps College and another 44 courses offered at other Claremont Consortium Colleges that fulfill the Intercultural requirement. Scripps offers 80 additional courses in gender and women's studies.

Elements of the CORE Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities

The CORE Curriculum is a closely integrated sequence of three interdisciplinary courses on our ideas about the world and the methods we use to generate these ideas. In the first semester of the freshman year all student take CORE I, a single lecture/discussion course that examines how these ideas developed from the 18th-century "Enlightenment" to the 20th-century "Postmodernity." CORE I looks at interrelationships between culture(s) and knowledge, focusing on the way our beliefs about the world are represented in everything that we create: novels, art, music conceptions of nation and race, films, gardens, clothing, psychology, political science, and even science. The course helps students identify the assumptions and claims involved in different perspectives on these issues and shows how the various disciplines respond to the current debates about culture knowledge and representation.

CORE II offers students a choice among a number of interdisciplinary, team-taught courses, each of which is devoted to more intensive study of a broad topic, theme, or problem introduced in CORE I. In CORE III, students continue their interdisciplinary investigations by focusing upon more specialized topics and individual projects.

How the Core is Structured

The CORE consists of a three-course sequence focusing on Culture, Knowledge and Representation. CORE I "plunges first-year students into many of the major intellectual debates and issues that inform modern culture" (Brooks, 2002, p. 22) by first exploring topics such as Newton and the Scientific Revolution: A Step Toward the Objective Truth. By mid-semester students are exploring broad topics entitled Challenges to the Enlightenment: Conceptions of the Individual and Politics and Universalism through lectures with themes like Romanticism and Race as an Unstable Category. CORE I concludes with the topic, Towards Post-modernity: Culture Knowledge and Representation. The fact that CORE I is developed and taught by a team of twelve faculty from a broad range of disciplines and that nearly 95% of the College's faculty have taught in the CORE suggests the importance faculty place on it. The fall 2001 and 2002 semester syllabi indicate the depth to which intercultural issues are addressed in the context of developing students' understanding of knowledge, culture, and representation.

CORE II courses are team-taught in seminar type groups where students begin to apply the CORE I knowledge and critical methods to specific cultural phenomenon (Brooks, 2002). There are several course titles in CORE II that specifically address intercultural and women's issues. The Diva's Many Faces: Representation of Women in the Opera is a course that examines the roles of women in selected operas from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century and includes topics such as woman as victim and as racial "other." Race, Colonialism, and the U.S.A. traces the development and function of the construction of race from the European Enlightenment to the present day. Culture Clash: Encounters of the Traveler with the Other examines the variety of experiences of travelers and their contacts with peoples and cultures other than their own.

Fostering innovation and collaboration among students are the goals of CORE III courses and this is achieved through small seminars. For example, in The Making of History; Work and Race in Greater Los Angeles course students must seek out an internship experience in Los Angeles that will give them access to oral histories of women, people of color, and working people. Along with archival sources, students draw on this experience to complete an independent research project about larger social issues. Other examples of he CORE II course offerings that address intercultural and women's issues include The Culture of Capitalism: Race Ethnicity and Entrepreneurship, and Body/Language: Research Topics in Cultural Studies.

The Impact of the CORE

While these CORE II and III courses related to diversity are not required of all students, they provide breadth of coverage of issues of gender race/ethnicity, class, sexuality, and sexual orientation as natural choices in the curriculum. It is more likely that a student who takes these course selections would gain a depth of understanding of these issues than if she were required to take one or two diversity courses that were disconnected the rest of the curriculum.

The Scripps CORE represents the spine of the body of knowledge students are expected to master enabling them to make connections between the disciplines and the challenges faced by larger society. Intercultural and women's issues are embedded in CORE I and increase the likelihood that students will be interested in pursuing such topics through subsequent CORE selections. This is apparent in one student's recall of her CORE experience.

Professor Katz ... made my CORE I experience the biggest contributing factor to the future of my academic interests at Scripps. ... CORE II on Race, Colonialism and the U.S.A. [which required students to create a race archive] gave me the idea for my CORE III project ... [in which she and another student] researched, directed, edited and produced, a half-hour documentary film entitled Still Life: The History of the African American Experience at Scripps College.
Brooks, 2002, pg. 24
Apparently the Scripps CORE stimulates students' personal desire to understand our nation's and our world's diversity not by simply adding one or two required courses, but rather through carefully and intentionally making it integral to the expectations it has of students' knowledge. For more information on Scripps College, see www.scripps.edu.

References

Brooks, Kristina. Getting to the Core. Scripps Alumni Bulletin. Fall 2001 Volume 74, No 3, pgs. 20–24.


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