Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Diversity Digest Volume 9, Number 2

Diversity Digest
Volume 9,
Number 3

Download our print issue (PDF)
Faculty Involvement
Science, Diversity, and Global Learning: Untangling Complex Problems
Breaking the Pyramid: Putting Science in the Core
Geologic Science for Global Citizenship: Under the Radar, but on the Web
Science and Global Learning at Carnegie Mellon University
Campus-Community Connections
Science and Citizenship: Habits of Mind for Global Understanding
Curricular Transformation
Connecting Global Learning and Science Education in the General Education Curriculum
Science, Gender, and the Environment
Student Experience
Seeing the World Around You
Institutional Leadership
Developing a Scalable, Sustainable Campus Diversity Initiative
Resources for Science, Diversity, and Global Learning

Science, Diversity, and Global Learning: Untangling Complex Problems

By Kevin Hovland, program director of global initiatives, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Global Initiatives, AAC&U

A fundamental goal of liberal education today is to produce global thinkers—students who reach beyond the classroom to apply their developing analytical skills and ethical judgment to concrete challenges in the world around them. At the heart of such an education are the kinds of questions central to the mission of Diversity Digest—questions about difference and democracy, identity and community, privilege and oppression, and power and responsibility.

Too often, these questions are the subject only of humanities and social science courses that emphasize multiple cultural perspectives. In the real world, however, such questions are tangled up with complex issues that require students to understand and apply scientific analysis. Lack of scientific literacy can foreclose responsible civic and ethical action on such issues as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, global warming, nuclear proliferation, environmental sustainability, economic development, and energy policies. Is higher education creating sufficient curricular opportunities for students to engage these tangled problems?

Diversity and global learning, as articulated in the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Shared Futures initiative, seeks to engage students with some of the most pressing questions of our time: What does it mean to be a citizen of an interconnected and unequal world? And what responsibility does such a citizen have to act in the face of large unsolved global problems?

Of course, such questions cannot simply be laid at the feet of our students. As educators, we must ask them of ourselves as well, and we must examine our institutional structures and habits in light of their ability to generate creative answers. We underemphasize the role of science in helping to address such questions at our own peril. Diversity and global learning can—and must—thrive in a genuinely interdisciplinary environment where analysis, ethics, and action intersect.

This issue of Diversity Digest grows out of one recent effort to raise the visibility of science in diversity and global learning initiatives. “Recentering: Science and Global Learning in the Undergraduate Curriculum” was a pre-meeting symposium held in conjunction with the 2006 annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Two hundred educators gathered at this symposium to share promising practices that cultivate the scientific and civic aptitudes college graduates need to thrive in a future marked by global interdependence. Participants explored ways to effectively use large global frameworks to reinvigorate introductory-level science courses. They discussed the roles of research and civic engagement in creating global general education science requirements. And they shared strategies for effectively addressing scientific questions as they emerge in non-science courses. In short, participants engaged in rich discussions of the need for, and difficulty of, genuine interdisciplinary teaching and learning. But they also gave evidence that such programs are possible—indeed are thriving—on some campuses.

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