As the higher education community continues to work to create a more inclusive learning environment, the needs of our gender-variant students are too often overlooked. This article outlines a few ways faculty can create an atmosphere that supports trans-identified and gender-nonconforming students.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
diversity in higher education
There are empty chairs in classrooms in Florida this week, at Valencia College, University of Central Florida, and Ana G. Mendez University, spaces left by the youngest victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando. Most of them young gay men, most of them Latino. In the academic world, June is a time of celebration, of convocation, of inspired addresses to graduates ready to take their hard-earned degrees and all that they have learned into the real world. In the LGBTQ communities, June is Pride month, a time to celebrate hard-earned rights, to look back on how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. This year, it is a time to mourn, and as we gather to stand in solidarity, there is that old, familiar feeling of looking over our shoulders for the next threat.
As the student body becomes increasingly diverse, it’s important to have faculty incorporate multicultural design into their courses regardless of discipline. Although it may not seem that all disciplines lend themselves to including multiculturalism as a learning goal, consider how Christine Stanley and Mathew Ouellett frame the issue.
Today’s classrooms require that instructors possess competencies for teaching all students. Robust instructional strategies and culturally sensitive curricula are critical, but more important is an instructor who is sensitive and responsive to the unique differences of each student. Recognizing the need to strengthen specific competencies to reach and teach all students requires an understanding of new ideas and a willingness to view instruction through varied cultural lenses.
In an interview with The Teaching Professor, Christine Stanley, vice president and associate provost for diversity and professor of higher education administration at Texas A&M University, and Matt Ouellett, associate director of the Center for Teaching & Faculty Development at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, offered a brief overview of their approach to creating a learning environment that is welcoming to students of all backgrounds.
“I don’t really have any diversity issues in my class because all of my students are white.”
“I have a lot of content to cover, so there’s really no time to address multiculturalism.”
Diversity, once largely centered on race and ethnicity, has evolved over the years to include a broad range of personal attributes, experiences, and backgrounds, each interlocking to create one’s social identity.
International student and online course enrollments had noted increases for 2010 at U.S. tertiary institutions (Institute of International Education, 2010 & Sloan-C, 2010). These enrollment data remind us that U.S. campuses are continually becoming more culturally and internationally diverse in their student populations. However, this diversity may not always be apparent in the increasing numbers of students taking online courses as the instructor-student interaction is not face-to-face as in seated classes. The latter interaction allows for more awareness of students’ cultural differences and any immediate adjustment in verbal and non-verbal communication as the need arises.
There are many reasons for wishing to increase the diversity of your faculty. They include improving recruitment and retention, raising student engagement, increasing innovation, building stronger communities and helping to prepare tomorrow’s leaders and citizens.
A critical component to building an American workforce with 21st century skills through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) undergraduate education is already being demonstrated successfully at several minority-serving institutions (MSIs)—Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). During the past three years, MSIs continue to take steps that help to further improve America’s global competitiveness and increase equity, especially among minority students, in STEM education.