Multiple Opportunities

Goal: Create multiple opportunities for all to learn about the value of diversity.

A climate of high achievement encompasses the work students do both in and outside the classroom. Ideally, elements of the whole academic experience combine to inspire each student to achieve beyond what she dreamed possible. In keeping with a decentralized approach to the implementation and realization of the goals in this report, and in acknowledgment of the fact that learning takes place in student governance, athletics, organizations, the residence halls – in all areas of college life we need to build multiple opportunities for all to learn.

In addition, our learning community is not just for students. Faculty, staff, and administration need opportunities to learn not only to provide better education to students, but also to develop their own work and careers, and their prospects for a more richly thoughtful life.

Specific Recommendations

  1. Create learning opportunities for faculty. Many faculty have expressed a desire for opportunities to learn more about current research on ethnicity, race and bias, to learn better how to engage issues of race in the classroom and in their advising, and to respond more sensitively and more constructively when issues of bias emerge in their teaching and advising. Many too have hoped to learn how to become more effective mentors to students of color, first-generation students, and others. We should expand our existing workshops, brown bags, and special keynote lectures, and provide access to ongoing research on the achievement gap so that faculty will have more opportunities to exchange ideas, think through challenges, and compare best practices. We must bring relevant research to faculty; develop opportunities for all faculty to learn how to teach and advise more effectively across difference, how to avoid climates in teaching and advising that impede opportunities for full achievement, and how to use any breakdowns of these climates as “teachable moments,” educational opportunities.
  2. Bring back intergroup dialogue. Institute a cascading intergroup dialogue program that will teach students in the fall to lead intergroup dialogues; those students would then in teams lead additional intergroup dialogue sections in the spring. The APC and MCCL should use the 2010 Innovation Fund to encourage proposals for the development of a credit-course in intergroup dialogue that would satisfy the multicultural course requirement.
  3. Offer point-of-entry opportunities for faculty and staff. Beginning work at Mount Holyoke provides a significant opportunity for learning what it is to enter a community that not only tolerates and celebrates, but values diversity, and for facilitating that transition. We recommend creating a structure of parallel anti-bias workshops for newly-hired staff at their point of entry into employment and newly-hired ongoing faculty, and to foreground for both groups the value of this opportunity for them and for the community.
  4. Institute a series of talks on narratives of achievement. Targeted for students of color and entitled “A Known Way, A Safe Passage,” this series can bring the lives and work of scholars and other professionals to students in a setting like the cultural houses. The goal is to illustrate and explore the values of achievement by providing students with personal narratives of accomplishment and excellence in the lives and careers of faculty, administrators, and community leaders.
  5. Highlight and develop dialogues across difference. An important part of our work is to encourage the deep learning that comes from dialogue. The academy is, after all, where responsible exchange around difficult issues can and must occur. We believe that dialogue is both an end and a means for building practices of diversity on campus. It is therefore important to address issues of race/racism, sex/sexism, cultural/social differences, etc. in conversations, panels, community-based learning, and more. We must provide members of the community opportunities to learn about how to learn from difference, both inside and outside of the classroom. The College has historically conducted many such events, and recent attention to diversity has prompted even more. (See Appendix E for some examples.)
  6. Re-orient orientation. Orientation should highlight and facilitate two great transitions into the academy. The first is from secondary school habits of thought to a rich, critical life of the mind. The second is from a framework of tolerance to a framework that embraces and values diversity – of race, of culture, of viewpoint – as a principal educational resource. Students and administration should continue conversations about revising new student orientation with an eye to:
    1. Setting a tone of high expectation during orientation and providing comprehensive and detailed information to students about resources available for meeting them.
    2. Using orientation as an opportunity to vitalize discussion among all students about the connections among high academic expectations, the value of diversity, and the importance of dialogue across difference.
    3. Articulating more clearly the goals of Passages and international students’ pre-orientation programs, and assessing the value of our existing programs toward those goals. Investigating the possibility of incorporating these two programs into the framework of a common arrival for new students, and introducing programming that advances for all students the goals of this report.