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Faculty conference focuses on diversity

About fifty faculty members gathered for the 10th-annual Institute for Student-Centered Learning, with the theme “Creating Connections: Building Bridges in the Classroom.”

The two-day conference, organized in May by the Center for Learning & Teaching (CLT), focused on diversity in the classroom and meeting the challenges it can present. The program included a student panel, discussions on topics ranging from generational diversity to identity demographics and a campus resources fair. President Lois B. DeFleur and Provost Mary Ann Swain both addressed the participants.

Other CLT events during 2007-08, including a technology brown bag and a session on multiculturalism in the classroom, gave the conference its direction, CLT Director Wayne Jones said.

During the resources fair, organized by Chris Reiber, assistant professor of anthropology, and Pamela Mischen, assistant professor of public administration, teams of faculty members each chose one challenge and then visited tables staffed by campus service providers in search of solutions. The exercise was designed to introduce faculty members to resources they may not have known about and to stimulate discussion about creative solutions to their concerns, Mischen said.

Teams tackled problems ranging from language concerns to interactions among older and  younger students and from dealing with corporate recruiters to addressing the needs of a gay student disowned by his family.

“I don’t think people realize how many services exist on campus that can help students — and can also help faculty,” Mischen said, noting sometimes people need help identifying the problem itself. She saw the activity as a good way to get conversations started about a variety of concerns.

Kim Jaussi, associate professor in the School of Management, facilitated part of the conference. Leading diversity is a focus of hers, she said, and teaching diversity is in some ways quite similar. She said she hoped participants would leave with a better understanding of themselves and their students as well as with specific tactics to improve their performance in the classroom.

One handout for the conference helped participants identify the “dimensions of diversity,” including age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and mental and physical disabilities as well as first language, education, work style, social status, communication style, work experience, income, religion, organizational role and level and military experience.

“You being your best self as a teacher helps students be their best selves,” Jaussi said.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08