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Developing a Diversity Requirement: First Steps at South
Puget Sound Community College

In February 2004, our team at South Puget Sound Community College (WA) decided to embark on a journey to create a diversity requirement for degree-seeking students. Although we were a small team, we represented a wide range of areas on campus: Vice President for Instruction Michael Beehler; Vice President for Student Services Rhonda Coats; Dean of Humanities Stephen Dickerson; Professor of Early Childhood Education and Coordinator of Parent Education Programs Marci Somer; and Professor of Humanities and Writing Lisa Aguilera Lawrenson.

We began the Campus Equity and Engagement Retreat with three goals:

  • Create a rationale for a diversity course requirement,
  • Create criteria for a diversity course, and
  • Formulate a timeline for implementing the diversity course requirement.

Before we discuss our progress, it is imperative to first emphasize the importance of the composition of a successful team. We found the following elements to be critical when creating an effective team:

  • Recruit members who represent various job classifications and areas of expertise.
  • Select members who possess varying viewpoints and experiences with regard to identity development theory and diversity.
  • Consider previous positive collaborative working relationships focused on diversity in higher education.

Many members of our team previously collaborated, facilitated, and participated in our grassroots effort on diversity needs and issues called Best Practices for Diversity and Equity. This effort grew out of our colleges' work on the Critical Moments project, supported by the Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education. The project includes an account of South Puget Sound Community College's diversity work.

Using recommendations that came out of this work, President Kenneth Minnaert provided leadership in the development of a diversity action plan for our campus. The proposal to create a diversity course graduation requirement was included within the curriculum area of the diversity action plan. The Campus Equity and Engagement Retreat provided the perfect opportunity for our team to continue its ongoing diversity work.

The intensity and depth of the conversations we had at the retreat directly resulted from our previous working relationships. After many hours of intellectual discussion, playful banter, and serious confrontation, we felt confident about our next steps. We left the retreat with a clear framework for the necessity of a diversity course requirement for students; clear criteria for that diversity course requirement; and a strategic timeline for the introduction and implementation of this requirement, along with the preparation to explain and advocate for this requirement.

Returning to campus, we organized five sessions for faculty, staff, and administrators to introduce and discuss the diversity course requirement. We were met with support, questions, and concerns about the course criteria. We clarified the rationale and revised the language. We then moved into the formal implementation process by presenting the course criteria to the Instructional Council, the body at our college that establishes curriculum policy and makes recommendations to the president. The presentation was another opportunity for the college community to raise additional issues and concerns. In fall 2004, we returned to the Instructional Council for the vote on the nature of the criteria.

We hope our work increases the campus community diversity and equity awareness and contributes to the ongoing diversity efforts at South Puget Sound Community College.

For more information, contact

Rhonda Coats
Vice President for Student Services
South Puget Sound Community College
(360) 596-5230

This article was reprinted with permission of the Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education.

 
 

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