Schuylkill Campus Diversity Committee

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Team ID: 
College / Administrative Unit: 
Penn State Schuylkill
Date Started: 
October 2008
To enrich the lives of students, faculty, and staff by providing a diverse academic community where the exchange of cultures, beliefs, ideas, knowledge, and perspectives become an active part of living and learning. PSU Schuylkill recognizes that diversity and respect for human difference is a key source of intellectual vitality and innovation. The principle goal for enhancing diversity is to ensure equal opportunities for all who learn, teach, or work within the campus.

"The Framework to Foster Diversity at PSU" is the basis of the challenges that the group is using:
Challenging a shared and inclusive understanding of diversity.
Creating a welcoming campus climate.
Recruiting and retaining a diverse student body.
Recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce.
Developing a curriculum that supports the goals of our new general education plan.
Diversifying University leadership and management.
Coordinating organizational change to support our diversity goals.


The Schuylkill Campus Diversity Committee developed and implemented our campus's first teaching theme during the 2009-2010 academic year: Diversity Within Community. We continue that theme this year with a focus on Religion. I am attaching a report submitted to EOPC concerning the results of a $15,000 EOPC grant. This explains in some detail our Diversity Within Community initiative. The Diversity Committee was the institutional organization behind all of this work.

Steve Couch

“Diversity Within Community” at Penn State Schuylkill

Throughout its seventy-five year history, Penn State Schuylkill has prided itself in providing a world-class education to an underrepresented student population. From its beginnings, our campus has served a primarily working class student population; currently, over 80% of our 1,000 students are the first generation in their family to attend college. More recently, we have supplemented our predominantly rural, white students with a substantial number of urban students, mainly from cities along the east coast. Today, our students are the most diverse in the Penn State system; 35% of our students are members of a racial or ethnic minority. Our student composition presents challenges, but even more-so, opportunities, for us to explore new ways to provide academic excellence in a college setting that fosters mutual respect, individual and social responsibility, and cooperation toward shared educational and life-long learning goals.

For many years, Penn State Schuylkill has undertaken initiatives focused on raising expectations for success and improving the educational quality of all our students, especially those from underrepresented groups. For example, we are very proud of our Center for Academic Achievement, which provides individual and group tutoring and educational workshops for our students. The Center, which includes a full-time Director, two professional tutors, and approximately two dozen peer tutors, is known throughout the Penn State system for its excellence in helping underrepresented students toward academic success. In addition, the campus has Enrollment Management and Retention Management Teams that meet bi-weekly to maximize the enrollment and success of a diverse student body. More recently, these teams have been joined by a Diversity Committee. Comprised of three top-line administrators, six faculty members, three staff members, and four students, the Diversity Committee is charged with developing and overseeing increased and more integrated diversity programming at the Campus. More specifically, the Committee will be instrumental in carrying out a new initiative for the 2009-2010 academic year: “Teaching Diversity Within Community.”

This teaching initiative will focus on the relationship between diversity and community. We believe that the two concepts, diversity and community, must be coupled as “diversity within community,” because as a campus we are a collection of individuals, different in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and other dimensions. Simultaneously, however, we are a teaching and learning community that holds a shared set of values and commitments to respect difference, to uphold and practice civil discourse, and to model and expect high standards of personal and social responsibility. “Diversity within community” defines our day-to-day practice. We wish to explore how to most fully realize our potential as an educational and social community, while respecting, and benefitting from, our community’s diversity.

A major focus of the “Diversity Within Community” initiative is to integrate diversity materials, and discussions of “diversity within community,” into our curriculum. We are beginning with an assessment of diversity content that is already found in our courses. From there, we are asking faculty to consider ways in which that content can be increased, and/or more fully integrated into their course content. In addition, we are asking faculty to consider their teaching methods in light of the learning styles of our diverse student body.

The Campus has supported these efforts in various ways, including appointing a Diversity Program Coordinator from within the faculty to, along with our Director of Academic Affairs and with the support of our Chancellor, coordinate our various diversity efforts. In addition, through use of EOPC funding for course development, we have supported the development of three new courses. The first was offered during the Spring 2009 semester. This course focused on small group facilitation and resulted in training a number of student peer facilitators, who carried out a series of student focus groups that discussed issues of diversity. These issues included race, sexual orientation, age, and family structure. These focus groups provided important data on assessing where we are regarding the diversity climate on our campus. In addition, students in the course developed diversity-related activities which they will implement in our required First Year Experience classes during the Fall 2009 semester.

The second course that is being developed is HDFS 287: Intercultural Community Building. This course, which will be offered during Fall 2009, will cover research on discrimination as it occurs in both social interactions and organizational contexts. To do this, the class will discuss constructs including, but not limited to: stigma, affirmative action, homophobia, modern racism, and ambivalent sexism. It will explore how the presence of discriminatory behaviors is linked to decreases in diversity at social and organizational levels. The course will consider discrimination against many different target groups including those who are ethnic minorities, obese individuals, individuals with disabilities, the elderly, women, and non-heterosexual individuals. In valuing the importance of diversity, the class will also explore strategies that may reduce discriminatory behaviors.

Also to be offered during the Fall 2009 semester, the third course is SOC 497: The Cosmopolitan Society. This course will explore the cosmopolitan ideal and its embodiment in the cultures, institutions, and community life of contemporary societies. In modern sociological thought, cosmopolitanism signifies a positive orientation towards cultural pluralism and diverse populations. In recent years, globalization and multiculturalism have opened up new possibilities for cosmopolitanism, but these trends have also raised questions about the modernist assumptions of cosmopolitanism. Issues to be explored include (a) the relation of cosmopolitanism, political domination, and cultural imperialism, (b) the connection between cosmopolitanism and urban forms, old and new, and (c) the impact of new, transnational cultural forms on older views of cosmopolitanism as a dialogue between diverse cultures and traditions. Other issues will be identified during the course development process.

Our first round of course development grants was very successful. In order to continue the integration of diversity-related material into the curriculum, a second rounf of proposals will be offered during the Fall 2009 semester.

We are also concerned with integrating co-curricular activities with the diversity-related academic activities. The Office of Student Affairs is taking the lead in developing and implementing programming for next year that will maximize co-curricular learning related to our teaching theme. These activities will include a wide range of live cultural events, panel discussions, guest speakers, and a discussion film series, all dealing in some way with “diversity within community.” These programming efforts, as well as, other support resources will be initiated by the Student Development Team, which is made up of student affairs staff from various areas, other campus staff, and faculty members. This team is charged with improving student development efforts across campus and will address various topics. The “diversity within community” efforts that this team addresses will be led by the Coordinator of Residence Life and Diversity Initiatives.

In addition to developing the three courses discussed above, EOPC and campus matching funds have allowed the following activities to take place:

1. AA attendance at the Network for Academic Renewal Conference, Diversity, Learning and Inclusive Excellence: Accelerating and Assessing Progress, held in Long Beach, California, October 16-18, 2008. Sponsored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the conference highlighted curricular, co-curricular and institutional models that enable higher education leaders to develop, implement and assess structures that foster diverse learning environments. The conference was instrumental in helping to further develop the vision and strategies that have been used to prepare for teaching “Diversity Within Community.”
2. Schuylkill Campus participation in the AAC&U’s Greater Expectations Institute in Burlington, Vermont, June 17-21, 2009. A team of eight administrators, faculty, staff, and students attended the Institute, which focused on assisting campus teams in developing an action plan to “make excellence inclusive.” Our plan focused on how to create community out of diversity, resulting in a plan by which all campus community members will learn and live the four Penn State Principles as part of our Diversity Within Community Initiative.
3. Sponsorship of two Teaching and Learning Consortium sessions during the 2008-2009 academic year focused on preparing the campus faculty for the 2009-2010 teaching theme. The first session focused on diversity content that the faculty currently incorporate into their classes. The second explored additional ways in which diversity content can be included in the curriculum.

We are excited about the activities we have been able to plan and carry out concerning Diversity Within Community. We think that our experiences will be of interest to other colleges and campuses dealing with diversity issues. Therefore, we plan to prepare and offer presentations at professional meetings and publish our work in professional journals.

The EOPC grant has been instrumental in allowing us to begin our campus initiative on Diversity Within Community. We are looking forward to institutionalizing these efforts into an ongoing, sustainable program that continues to develop, implement and assess diversity-related activities at the Schuylkill Campus in years to come.

Contact Person: 
Stephen Couch
  • Stephen Couch, Co-Chair
  • Matthew Swatchick, Co-Chair
  • Bim Angst, Member
  • Tammie Durham, Member
  • Cathy Fiorillo, Member
  • Peter Grahame, Member
  • Hartmut Heep, Member
  • Dwayne Hunt, Member
  • Charles Law, Member
  • Judy Lenick, Member
  • Susan Martin, Member