Diversity and Global Learning: Breakout Session and Notes, Oct. 14, 2011 (Miguel Ramos)Posted: October 21, 2011
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Guillermo de los Reyes, Associate Professor Latin American Culture and Literature, Department of Hispanic Studies
Joy Tesh, Director, The Language and Culture Center at the University of Houston
Martha Wong, Former Texas State Representative, Houston City Council Member, and Distinguished Alum of the University of Houston College of Education
Miguel A. Ramos (Moderator), Assistant Dean for Assessment and Accreditation, College of Technology
The panel discussion on diversity and global learning encompassed a wide range of issues and ideas. Some of the more prominent strands of the conversation touched on the following topics.
- The University of Houston has done a good job of establishing a diverse student body that is reflected by national rankings. However, beyond ethnic and racial diversity there is still work to be done in terms of supporting other underrepresented groups including but not limited to the GLBT community. There have been strides made but there is still room for improvement.
- The University of Houston has been less successful historically in establishing similar levels of diversity among the faculty ranks. However, recent statistics indicate that while overall faculty diversity is still a work in progress, great gains have been made in the associate and assistant professor ranks in terms of diversifying the population.
- Visible diversity on campus helps provide role models for students. One area where the university has been proactive is in the creation of faculty-in-residence positions. These are faculty members that live in one of the four undergraduate dorm facilities. The current residents represent a vital link between undergraduates and the larger UH community.
- The Language and Culture Center is at the forefront of diversity issues on campus as it tries to help international students learn English and adjust to life in the United States.
- The role of study abroad programs in helping students expand their cultural experiences was also discussed. This led to a broader conversation about the ways US born citizens perceive and think about culture and differences relative to other global communities. The concept of cultural relativism provided a framework for this discussion.
- The panel ended with a conversation about some of the more practical ways in which cultural knowledge and awareness plays a role in real world interactions. For instance, the group discussed why businesses with international interests often provide training on local norms and customs.
Everyone involved agreed with the idea that any slice of the discussion could have been expanded into a series of panels. Ultimately, we left the session with a better understanding of some of the complexities and challenges associated with global learning and diversity issues in both the academy and the real world.