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UI proposes cultural-diversity education certificate

BY CAITLIN LOMBARDO | MARCH 9, 2009 7:27 AM

A proposed program through the UI School of Social Work may make students more culturally diverse — a valuable skill in an expanding global environment, program proponents say.

The Critical Cultural Competence certificate aims to educate students on cultural diversity and solve such social problems as oppression and discrimination. In order to enroll in the certificate program, a student must have sophomore standing and have completed both rhetoric and Introduction to Literature classes. If approved, 25 spots will be open in the certificate’s foundation class.
“We want to start it small so we can have a dialogue,” said Ed Saunders, the School of Social Work director. “We want a dialogue with a degree of depth you just don’t get in a lecture of 150 students.”

The certificate was OK’d in the most recent College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Faculty Assembly, though the program still needs further approval.

Some faculty members raised concerns before the vote, such as whether the program was aimed toward white students.

Saunders said this is not the case. The program would offer more than race studies and would include a variety of gender studies, as well, he said.

“It all depends on the student’s population of interest,” Saunders said. “Students can chose anything from disability status, sex, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.”

Consideration for the certificate began nearly four years ago when Linda Maxson, the dean of the liberal-arts college, assembled a committee to explore interest in it.

There are only two new courses that would be introduced with the certificate program. The foundations course would take place on Saturday afternoons. Though the proposal comes at a time when the UI is facing extreme budget cuts, instructors’ salaries would come out of tuition paid by students enrolled in the certificate program.

“We are willing to make some sacrifices to make sure it happens sooner rather than later,” Saunders said, adding he has volunteered his time working as the project’s coordinator.

Faculty assembly members also raised concerns over the placement of the certificate. The certificate’s academic home is in the liberal-arts school, but the certificate is open to students within any UI college.

Vershawn Young, an assistant professor in African-American Studies, said he thinks these concerns are unwarranted, though.

“The certificate is just as relevant for actors as it is for nurses,” he said. “Just as relevant for engineers as it is for carpenters.”

The certificate will be further revised before final approval.

“The goal is to help students recognize that there are opportunities in society,” Saunders said.

“Students ask themselves, where do we go from here to make a difference as we leave the University of Iowa?”


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