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Winter 01
Student Experience
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Pluralism and Unity: Can They Co-Exist?
The Hewlett Foundation and AAC&U Say "Definitely"


Two Approaches to the Same Question

In 1993, The Association of American Colleges and Universities designed a multi-project initiative, American Commitments: Diversity, Democracy, and Liberal Learning. Funded largely by the Ford Foundation with added support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, it sought both to call attention to fundamental questions about education in a diverse democracy and to provide resources for colleges and universities willing to address those questions as dimensions of institutional mission, campus community, and curricular focus. Shortly thereafter, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation developed its "Pluralism and Unity" initiative to assist colleges and universities help students to respect differences while also valuing inclusion. Both AAC&U and the Hewlett Foundation believed that thoughtful exploration of differences actually leads to a deeper unity across groups.

However, in 1999, AAC&U and the Hewlett Foundation decided to join forces. Through a grant from Hewlett, AAC&U was able to offer a third generation of American Commitments' Curriculum and Faculty Development Network. The grant was introduced through a national call for proposals and resulted in the selection of forty institutions. But unlike previous AAC&U generations, this round encouraged schools to include a student affairs professional as part of their six-person institutional team. More than half of the participating institutions chose to do so.

Establishing a Space of Dialogue and Possibilities

Students on campuses today represent a spectrum of diversity by race, sex, ethnicity, class, sexual identity, religious belief, ability, linguistic groupings, and age. It is a diversity that is frequently segregated and segmented outside the academy. Consequently, higher education must function as what Maxine Greene (1988) refers to as "an authentic space: a space of dialogue and possibilities." Clearly, higher education has a critical role to play in helping students acquire knowledge and intercultural competencies to participate as active citizens in such a continually reconstituting kaleidoscope called the United States of America.

AAC&U's Hewlett grant sought to provide opportunities for colleges and universities to reexamine the basic premises of American democratic pluralism as they are simultaneously critiqued, enriched, and extended by new and newly heard parts of our diverse society. Within this broad framework, we encouraged the forty institutions to address the many levels of community and democratic participation within U.S. society. We asked them to address not only the national community and national covenants but also the roles played by smaller cohesive communities within the larger society that often provide sources of meaning and identity.

The Summer Institute

During the summer institute held in July 2000 at Brown University, faculty and student affairs personnel became students again--in every sense of the word. Participants lived in dormitories, shared common bathrooms, ate indistinguishable food in the cafeteria, and had homework assignments. They stayed up late talking to all hours in each others rooms, played guitars in the courtyard until those who wanted sleep shouted them into silence, and danced until their hair matted with sweat on the last night of the institute.

The Boundaries and Borderlands Institute became its own borderland space. The world of differences that participants carried to Brown rubbed edges with one another. In the process, participants experienced first hand and up close some of the difficulties and the exhilaration of living in a pluralistic community while trying to practice the arts of democracy.

One Boundaries and Borderlands participant explained that he valued the "sustained membership over time [which] provided the opportunity to create a 'borderland,' connecting (if not transcending) individual boundaries. Through dialogue and other conversations, we pushed ourselves to think about the requirements of education as democratic practice." Another valued "confronting viewpoints I do not share, expressed by people I genuinely like, and can continue to like. Learning that it is not either FIGHT or BE SILENT."

The institute included colloquia with distinguished scholars, cultural events, a film series, and practical workshops. The latter spanned the gamut. There were workshops on constructing curricular models, building administrative leadership, building strong collaborations between student and academic affairs and on assessing student learning in diversity courses. Workshop topics also included intergroup dialogue, diverse pedagogies, new research on the impact of campus diversity.

But the heart of the institute, and without question its most transformative part, resided in the eight morning seminars. Each day a group of 15 people met each other over a three-hour period to tackle a new thematic topic each day. They gathered to read, think, debate, and write about some of the broad conceptual questions from the parallel and too often unconnected scholarship on U.S. diversity and democracy.

Each seminar approached a different theme from multiple points of view and multiple disciplinary perspectives. The eight seminars were organized around the following topics:

* Education in a Diverse Democracy
* The U.S. Democratic Experiment: Forging a Nation for Whom?
* Theories of Identity, Difference, and Democracy
* Race and Racialization: The Color of Democracy
* Women, Democracy, and Citizenship
* Rethinking Citizenship: Immigration, Nationalism, and Cosmopolitanism
* Religion in a Liberal Democracy
* Community, Diversity, and Civic Engagement

So What Difference Did It All Make?

As campuses reported at the end of the grant, participation in the grant helped institutions to:

1. create new diversity courses and/or revise courses by integrating more diversity content;
2. establish or refine their diversity requirements;
3. strengthen the collaborations between student and academic affairs, and
4. encourage new research on diversity and learning.

In the short institutional abstracts on the following pages describing only a few of the forty institutions, the Digest reader can get the briefest glimpse of the kind of changes that occurred on the campuses. I encourage you to visit the institutional web sites of the participating schools to get a fuller picture of the range of overall diversity work on each of the B&B campuses.

Course development. Over thirty-five new courses were created across twenty-three of the forty institutions. They included courses like "Empowerment, Rights, and Boundaries," a sophomore seminar at California State University-Fullerton, "Diaspora: Journey Toward Destiny," a course at Evergreen State University about people of Jewish and African descent, and "The Gendered Self: Gender and Diversity," a First year Learning Community course at Wagner College. "Ideals and Institutions: Democracy in America" is a new seminar for first-year students at Pomona College, while Macalaster is offering a new course, "The Problem of Race in U.S. Social Thought and Policy" and Hollins a new art course, "Cultural Diversity in the History of Photography." Meanwhile, Keene State College has a new 200-level general education course called "One World: Many Cultures."

New or Revised Diversity Requirements. Nine of the participating institutions created an entirely new diversity framework, like the new U.S. Cultures requirement at Miami University, or the Understanding Diversity requirement at College of Saint Rose. A group from Pomona College who had been at the B&B institute raised the possibility of adding a new general education requirement, "Dynamics of Difference and Power." Still another institution, Mount St. Mary's College, crafted a new diversity designation with new guidelines and anticipated outcomes and are in the process of assessing the diversity content of every department course with a current multicultural designation.

Student and Academic Affairs Collaborations. It made a significant difference to include student affairs personnel as part of the institutional teams. The conversations were altered at the seminars and around the dorms at night. Issues were injected that would not have been otherwise, and many institutions returned to their campuses committed to implementing new structures of cooperation and cross-fertilization.

There seems to be evidence of new partnerships between student and academic affairs on campuses nurtured by the Boundaries and Borderlands mixed teams and seminars. Santa Ana College stands out for the way it has integrated the two sides of the house. Both their college freshman experience and sophomore learning communities combine a counselor with a discipline-specific faculty member in one classroom. That is true of their service learning program whose organizational structure is coordinated by both a student affairs professional and a faculty member. Santa Ana's cross-cultural center is co-coordinated by faculty and student affairs staff.

While there was visible progress in this area, there is a long way to go on most campuses. It will be some time before the mutual respect, recognition of different professional skills, and habits of collaboration will offset the more typical hierarchy and separation between the two worlds. Given how much of students' lives are lived outside of the classroom, it is impossible for faculty to deny the opportunity for enhanced learning that could be gained through cooperation. Similarly, given the greater stability of the faculty and their privileged position on campus and in students' minds, it is equally impossible to ignore the stability and prestige that faculty can bring to a student affairs or co-sponsored program.

Research from the Campuses. Edmonds Community College designed an assessment survey for faculty and students at their institution to address four goals specified in their Institutional Diversity Plan. Their institutional findings, while offering some special insights, confirm what has appeared in collective national findings. Edmonds wanted to know more about diversity knowledge and exposure; diversity skills and behaviors; the impact of courses with diversity content; and effective pedagogies. Because Edmonds administered parallel student and faculty surveys, they have some illuminating correlations between student learning and faculty capacities.

Final Implications

There are several lessons to be drawn from this third generation of American Commitments institutions. Rather than localized institutional change, many colleges are looking for pervasive, coordinated, and purposeful change. Rather than a single diversity course, they are looking for developmental levels offered in a variety of ways. Rather than carroling learning solely into classrooms, more are experimenting with the enriched learning from hands-on opportunities to be engaged with local, national, and global communities. Instead of professional as well as departmental silos, the more advanced schools are straining against the architecture and habits of the academy to create the very borderland space of AAC&U's summer institute. Spaces where differences rub edges and where one acquires the courage and the comfort to move into contact areas, into that democratic space of dialogue and possibilities.

California State University Fullerton

Faculty at California State Fullerton successfully developed and implemented a new sophomore seminar for the university's revised honors program. The "Empowerment, Rights, and Boundaries" seminar focuses on the social and institutional construction of race, ethnicity, gender, and social class. The seminar fulfills the general education requirement for U.S. history and American government, covering the 19th century in the fall semester and the 20th century in the spring semester.

The seminar brings to light apparent ironies in U.S. history and ideals. The principles of democracy, justice and fair play are contrasted with the U.S. history of racial, ethnic, gender and class discrimination, violence and injustice. As students role play and debate, they understand the realities and complexities of the past, as well as those of today.

De Anza College

To institutionalize their diversity initiative, De Anza College in Cuppertino, California, incorporated a Student Equity Plan into all areas of the college, including specific goals in their College Education Master Plan to "improve the student success rates for all ethnic, gender and disability groups." The Student Equity Plan, approved by De Anza's Academic Senate and Classified Senate is defined as "ongoing, accountable processes that will work towards achieving equity in all measurements of student access and achievement across lines of gender, ethnicity and disability." These processes include curricular transformation and staff development among other activities for the success of all De Anza students.

In addition to assessment of student equity across campus and conversations with key stakeholders on issues of diversity, De Anza has discussed new criteria for courses to qualify as general education courses. A requirement that all courses be infused with multicultural perspectives is included among those criteria.

Examples of courses infused with multicultural perspectives at De Anza include revisions of physical education and math courses, courses that do not normally contain reflection on diversity in gender, culture and values. These courses include historical references and data relevant to students from various backgrounds. More courses are developed each quarter as the De Anza faculty participate in curriculum development seminars designed to support faculty as they create new courses or redesign old ones.

Rowan University

At Rowan University, a private institution in New Jersey, diversity and democracy are infused in the Rowan Seminar for first year students. Faculty and staff participated in a five-day summer workshop on course development for the Rowan Seminar. The workshop assisted faculty and staff in developing new, interdisciplinary courses that include diversity and democracy as essential elements. Because all first year students are required to enroll in a Rowan Seminar, the team-taught courses developed exposes them to new ideas and encourages critical thinking, allowing the students to transition successfully to university life.

The workshop provided faculty and staff with materials to help develop and enhance pedagogy. Presentations were made on service learning and volunteerism, learning styles, team-teaching strategies, and the basics of critical thinking.

Oregon State University

Oregon State, a public research university, prides itself on having programs and faculty in every county in Oregon. Oregon State created the Difference, Power and Discrimination (DPD) Program to train and assist faculty and staff in developing comparative diversity courses in response to student concerns about discrimination and harassment on campus. Each first year student must meet the DPD course requirement, and DPD training strives to help faculty and staff to develop a curriculum that treats race, gender, sexual orientation, and other issues as systemic forms of inequality.

This faculty development seminar is offered once per year to develop strategies to incorporate diversity into the classroom, to instill a sensitivity to difference, to provide resources and training about course development, and to "introduce disciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarship and perspectives on race, gender, class, sexual orientation and other institutionalized systems of inequality in the United States."

During the course of the grant, OSUoffered two of its own faculty seminars which trained an additional 25 faculty members. Faculty members from two nearby community colleges also participated in the training. In addition to faculty seminars, the DPD Program sponsored other informal events, lectures, and brown bags to spur a dialogue about difference and diversity among faculty members and students.

To meet the DPD requirements, courses must contain at least one active learning component, be multi-disciplinary in nature, focus primarily on the United States, and encourage critical thinking.

Washington State University

As the state's land grant institution, Washington State University positions itself to serve the entire state of Washington as well as a diverse body of students from throughout the United States and the globe.

Recently, Washington State implemented a new General Education requirement titled "American Diversity." They have already added 47 courses since the fall of 1999 to fulfill this requirement. Starting in the fall of 2000, all students were required to take at least one American Diversity course. The new diversity curriculum was designed to align with the university's research mission, while addressing diversity, unity, and community issues. At the heart of the American Diversity mission is allowing students to engage in dialogue, encouraging research and inquiry-based pedagogies, and developing learning communities.

Learning communities were encouraged by developing course clusters to allow small groups of students to enroll in several linked courses together. For example, the same cluster of students would take a diversity course, a sociology course, and a specially designed section of English composition with a common theme threaded throughout them. Research shows that when students become more comfortable with their peers they engage in thoughtful, challenging dialogue under less stressful conditions. The idea was to make students comfortable enough with their peers to willingly step outside of their comfort zone.

The University of Massachusetts-Boston

A collective team of faculty played leadership roles building the curriculum and community connections through their intercollegiate Asian American studies program. The Asian American studies program is the strongest of any university in New England, and is recognized as a model within the national Asian American studies (AAS) field because of their commitment to pedagogy, community development, and the integration of theory and practice, particularly to immigrant and refugee populations.

Each affiliated faculty has primary appointments in each of the University of Massachusetts Boston's (UMass Boston) five colleges, which are arts & sciences, education, management, nursing, and public & community service. These joint appointments were crucial in the curricular transformation of the AAS program. AAS faculty have dedicated time to contribute their expertise to sustain curricular collaborations with health practices, political science, business, and law. For example, UMass Boston's AAS program offers courses such as "Asian American Politics and Social Movements," "Asian American Cultures and Health Practices," and "Asian Americans and the Law." By drawing on shared commitments of faculty, staff, and students throughout the university in an intercollegiate structure, the AAS program provides rich, interdisciplinary approaches in teaching and research with dynamic linkages to local communities and supportive learning environment for students of all backgrounds.

Edmonds Community College

Edmonds Community College, established in the late 1960s, is a suburban institution in western Washington about 15 miles north of Seattle. The faculty at Edmonds Community College (EdCC) formed a Teaching and Learning Diversity Committee to enhance the existing Cultural Diversity (CD) Requirement. Students must take a five-credit CD course in liberal arts or a designated courses in the professional or technical areas that gives them competencies in two of three domains--knowledge, awareness, and skills--related to domestic or international diversity.

As a catalyst for curricular transformation, the Teaching and Learning Diversity Committee was a key factor in the creation of the Diversity Studies department. This new department was established to increase faculty knowledge of diverse groups and faculty commitment to inclusion of diversity in various aspects of the curriculum. In addition, courses will be offered through the Diversity Studies department, so students have more opportunities to gain knowledge to develop their awareness of themselves and others and to increase their communication skills to interact responsibly with members from diverse groups.

Miami University

Miami University is a public undergraduate institution located in Oxford, Ohio. The heart of Miami University's curricular transformation lies in the faculty-driven Multicultural Council and their United States Cultures requirement in which all students must take a 3-credit course that explores diverse cultures of the United States. This council has established an intellectual community whose chief commitment is to creating an inclusive campus and ensuring the integrity and richness of courses designed for the U.S. cultures requirement.

Miami University has also been nationally recognized for their innovative program, Residential Theme Learning Communities. These learning communities link student affairs with academic programs by having faculty members visit the residence halls to discuss themes of diversity, leadership and culture. Among the fourteen theme-learning communities is the Mosaic program, which is designed to emphasize critical thinking about issues of primary and secondary difference by allowing student participants to engage their peers and faculty/staff instructors in reflective discourse about diversity. The Mosaic community brings together the Center for American and World Cultures, residence life, and academic programs. This systematic structure for creating learning communities provides a space for engaging students and faculty in meaningful ways to create an authentic collaboration for constructing and understanding knowledge.

Keene State College

Located in New Hampshire, Keene State College (KSC) focused on creating the diversity component of its general education program. Through the KSC Commission on the Status of Diversity and Multiculturalism, a summer diversity institute was developed to provide an opportunity for full-time and adjunct faculty to develop new diversity related content and/or pedagogy in their courses. As a result, KSC piloted an interdisciplinary, 200-level general education diversity course in psychology/sociology: "One World: Many Cultures." This course is intended to become the model for faculty to use, who are interested in developing a 200-level general education diversity.

In addition, the faculty-led team, who attended Boundaries and Borderlands, drew on their experience from the project to draft a report with recommendations for strengthening the diversity element of the university's general education curriculum. This effort resulted in implementation of a diversity survey for faculty. This survey was composed of questions that were designed to identify diversity outcomes and methods for achieving them. Through this survey, the B&B team mobilized the faculty from across the campus to address ways they might incorporate diversity content in general education courses. The B&B team continues to be the catalyst for curricular transformation by providing the leadership for the Summer Diversity Institute, which is being offered again in 2002.


Research/Doctoral Universities
Indiana State University
Miami University-Ohio
Northern Arizona University
Oregon State University
University of Louisville
University of Massachusetts-Boston
University of Michigan
University of Vermont
Washington State University

Comprehensive Colleges and Universities
California State University-Fullerton
Christian Brothers University
College of St. Catherine
Fairfield University/Houstonic CC
Heritage College
Keene State College
Lynchburg College
Northwestern Illinois University
Rowan University
State University of New York-Geneseo
The College of Saint Rose

University of Scranton
University of Southern Maine
Wagner College

Baccalaureate Colleges and Universities

Bryn Mawr College
Hollins University
Macalaster College
Millikin University
Nebraska Wesleyan University
Pomona College
St. Lawrence University
St. Olaf College
The Evergreen State College
Trinity College
Wesleyan College
Willamette University

Community Colleges
Community College of Denver
DeAnza College
Edmonds Community College
Santa Ana College

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Critical Questions Explored in Boundaries and Borderlands III

o What must we know and understand about the multiplicity of groups and people that have been unequally acknowledged in our nation?

o What democratic concepts can we draw on from our own U.S. history to guide us in forging new civic covenants among our citizens?

o How are we to understand the contradictory interconnections between democratic aspirations and structural injustice?

o What kinds of intercultural competencies will graduates need to negotiate their disparate and multiple commitments and communities, inherited and adopted?

o What kinds of knowledge and capabilities are required for full participation in a pluralistic democracy? What kinds of values?

o What are the crucial distinctions between acknowledging difference and learning to take grounded stands in the face of difference? If both are goals for liberal learning, how can we help students develop both kinds of capabilities over time?




The Student Equity Plan...
is defined as "ongoing, accountable processes that will work towards achieving equity in all measurements of student access and achievement across lines of gender, ethnicity and disability."




"We issue a call to colleges and universities to assert a new generation of societal leadership that embraces the full range of challenges confronting American pluralism today...Higher Education's goal, we believe, should be to deepen public and campus knowledge of United States diversity histories, to reengage with democratic aspirations as a moral compass for intersecting communities, and to recommit ourselves -- as educators and as citizens -- to the still-elusive goal of meaningful equality for every American."

The Drama of Diversity
and Democracy, 1995
American Commitments National Panel


Communication tips
If your campus is undergoing a curricular review or considering implementing a diversity requirement, critics may use local media to generate negative coverage of the proposed curriculum. If you have reason to believe that opponents may talk to reporters or if you know that a local editor or reporter has a negative view of diversity initiatives, it is better to reach out to the media yourself than to hope that stories that might appear will be balanced. Consider contacting the education editor or the Editorial page editor to schedule a breakfast or lunch to talk about proposed changes to the curriculum. Approach this as an opportunity rather than an instance in which one needs to be defensive. News stories on the curriculum frequently include more in-depth exploration of diversity education.