Daily Egyptian

Diversity Council preparing plan to implement cultural competency in SIU’s core curriculum

By Amelia Blakely

Members of the Diversity Council say they are working on a proposal to add cultural competency into the curriculum that they will present to the chancellor by the end of the semester.

In the first draft of Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s academic reorganization, he said he tasked the Diversity Council with incorporating cultural competency in the core curriculum.   

This would entail making students more aware of cultural differences, Elizabeth Lewin, the associate chancellor for diversity, said.

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“Cultural competency occurs when an individual is aware of and sensitive to the differences among people from various cultures, ethnic groups and countries,” Lewin said.

Lewin said council members have been sent to gather information from professors and campus committees that have been engaged in increasing inclusivity and diversity on campus.

“We’re having to just gather. We don’t know what we’ll find, “ Lewin said.

Lewin said once the information is collected, she hopes to have more direction on how to fulfill the chancellor’s request.

Although the council received no written charge from Montemagno, Lewin said the chancellor has visited with council members.

“He asked for its assistance, recommendations and how to infuse cultural competency or to teach diversity and inclusivity in the core curriculum,” Lewin said.

Lewin said other than that verbal exchange, the council has had no other contact with the chancellor.

Last year, Lewin said the council had made headway on its goals but was waiting interim Chancellor Brad Colwell’s approval of the work they had done.

As they waited, Lewin said Montemagno was appointed and he asked the council to alter their work to meet his expectations and goals.

Johnathan Flowers, the Diversity Council’s co-chair and president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, said their previous work centered on how the university engaged in blending diversity into coursework and the core curriculum. Flowers said this gives the council a starting point.

Flowers said the council collaborates with the Core Curriculum Advisory Committee and the Core Curriculum Executive Committee.

They do have preliminary plans, Flower said, but the chancellor’s additional instructions came to them only recently and their plans are not ready to be made public yet.

“We want to do it in a way that enables everyone to engage in the cultural competency education that we are seeking to provide,” Flowers said. “We want to do it right.”

Flowers said the council wants to be careful not to lessen the work done by other forces on campus that focus on the experiences of marginalized students. The Diversity Council and units like Africana studies and Latino studies should work together, Flowers said.

He said the council does not see a need for departments like Africana studies to be dismantled to aid other departments in cultural competency.  

“We value these units as academic disciplines in their own right and believe they should be preserved as academic disciplines and independent units,” Flowers said.

Still, Flowers said diverse and inclusive coursework is not the only thing necessary to make SIU culturally competent.

“It has to be an overall addressing of the climate of the institution,” Flowers said.

Lewin said the council is optimistic to present a framework to the chancellor in which cultural competency on campus could be accomplished.

“Recognizing we’re really all human, but we’re just coming from different experiences — that should be, as far as I’m concerned, something to celebrate and use to our advantage to progress,” Lewin said.

Lewin said as members of an institution of higher learning, students should be excited and eager to learn about cultures that they aren’t a part of.

“We should integrate the good and the positive from everywhere to help build us,” Lewin said. “To me, we are never going to progress and become the leader we’d like to be in this world until we embrace everybody who has something to offer.”

Staff writer Amelia Blakely can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AmeilaBlakely.

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