Coffman Chair for University Teaching Scholars
Summary of Activities

Douglas Benson
Chair, 2009-2010

The Issues and the Project: Enhancing the Undergraduate Diversity Curriculum at K-State with the Tilford Web Site and the Virtual Second Life Center

The Coffman Chair residence has allowed me the time and resources to work with colleagues on a project that has been long in coming despite frequent requests from faculty and staff since the creation of the K-State Tilford Group in 1997. The K-State group was founded at the request of Provost James Coffman, with Dr. Juanita McGowan as director, as an outgrowth of the annual statewide Michael Tilford Kansas Regents Conference on Multiculturalism in the University Curriculum. To gather opinion on how to help prepare undergraduates for life and work in our democratic society, the K-State group facilitated a series of business and industry diversity retreats and campus focus groups. In 2000 the group collated the results and published a list of multicultural competencies to help faculty and staff implement these goals as learning outcomes for our students. The initiative was well received, but faculty and staff requested more help: “OK, we get it and we agree with the need to do this. But how do we incorporate diversity issues and strategies into our classes? What resources are available? Couldn’t we put this on a web site?”

The K-State Tilford Virtual Multicultural Center in Second Life

Beginning in 2008, the recipients of one of our Tilford Faculty Incentive Grants proposed the creation of a Tilford Virtual Center, with diversity resources for faculty, staff and students, using the Second Life platform and drawing on the previous groundbreaking work of the K-State Tilford Group. The recipients of the grant had worked toward the technological completion of the project, but ran into problems with the content component. In part this was due to the complexity of diversity itself and the range of perspectives on its nature and scope, and in part due to the many options regarding exactly how diversity and technology might best be integrated into a user-friendly, accessible format.

First Initiatives:

To begin the discussions, I invited Dr. Margie Kitano from San Diego State University to lead a day-long workshop on campus in August of 2009. Dr. Kitano is a nationally recognized researcher on gifted students and diversity curricular issues. Her workshop for faculty and staff, titled “Multicultural Course Transformation: A Framework for Change,” offered many strategies for incorporating diversity content and related classroom management formats to enrich our courses with what she calls “a broader truth.” A copy of the materials that she brought is available to the campus through the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.

At the recommendation of Dr. Myra Gordon, Associate Provost for Diversity, I recruited twelve faculty and staff members to become K-State Diversity Accelerators. The group provides suggestions and feedback on the evolving design and content of the project. As the resources become more fully operational, the accelerators will collaborate in planning how best to assist other faculty and staff members as they use them with their students. The current group of Diversity Accelerators includes:

LaVerne Bitsie-Baldwin, Director, Multicultural Engineering Program
Doris Wright Carroll, Special Education
Jacqueline Cooper, Assistant Director, Career & Employment Services and College of Education
Rebecca Culver, College of Human Ecology
Pedro Espinoza, Project Manager/Recruiter, BESITOS, College of Education
Melia Erin Fritsch, K-State Libraries
David Griffin, Secondary Education/Assistant Dean for Diversity, College of Education
JohnElla Holmes, American Ethnic Studies Program
Phillip Marzluf, Department of English
Dawne Martin, Marketing
Rosemary Talab, Secondary Education
LaBarbara Wigfall, Landscape Architecture

Planning and Resource Development: the Tilford Web Site and Virtual Center

The original Incentive Grant plan called for developing most of the resources on the Second Life site to make them accessible both on-campus and worldwide. However, as we began to gather suggestions from our faculty and staff, it became clear that only some of them would be interested in using a virtual world to access the resources. As one faculty member put it: “Give me something I can get to in three clicks; I don’t have time for games.” Our first priority thus focused on redesigning and greatly expanding the previous K-State Tilford Group web site to make it more useful for the entire campus community. The Second Life site could then be structured more narrowly as an individualized diversity discovery “path” that faculty and staff can use with their students in conjunction with the web site resources.

The previous Tilford Group web site had served mostly as an archive of the results of the group’s initial projects: the business and industry diversity retreats, the focus groups and the Incentive Grant summaries. It provided few resources for those outside the group.

Over the last two years, our technology and content teams have completely reworked the site. Faculty and staff can now find information on the educational benefits of a diverse learning environment, strategies and resources for multicultural course transformation, the components of an ethnic identity discovery “path” for students, brief descriptions of diversity cultural centers around the country, and a range of other materials. The Second Life site, available on Wildcat One island, contains a building with some basic information, an ethnic identity self-discovery path outside the building, and several “campfire” sites where faculty and staff can “gather” with students for group discussions.

The Tilford Group web site is located at: tilford.ksu.edu. Information about the Second Life site is available under “Resources for Educators/Virtual Center.”

The new Tilford Group web site was presented to the campus community at a Tilford Group retreat and the Coffman Chair Provost Lecture in the spring of 2010, as well as to other campus groups. Three members of our teams demonstrated the new Second Life site during the statewide Michael Tilford (Regents) Conference on October 11-12, 2010.    

We are beginning to receive requests for information and/or permission to use materials from other institutions across the nation as well.

Plans for the Future 

The technology and content teams continue to make progress researching materials and resources for both Tilford sites. We plan to add components to the web site on Advising and Assessment under “Resources for Educators.” In the fall of 2011 I will request time during K-State college faculty meetings to demonstrate what we have done and to elicit suggestions on how to expand and improve them in the years to come.

Faculty and staff who served as colleagues on this project:

Tech Team, Department of Communications, College of Agriculture:

Larry Jackson, Coordinator, Information & Educational Technology
Larry Havenstein, Systems Engineer
Neal Wollenberg, Web Coordinator/Developer & Computer Information Specialist

Content Team:

Douglas Benson, Modern Languages/Coffman Chair
E. Allen Eason, American Ethnic Studies Program
Juanita McGowan, Chairperson, Tilford Group/Assistant Dean, College of Arts & Sciences/Director, American Ethnic Studies Program
Carol Russell, English Department

Special thanks to:

Robert Corum, Head, Department of Modern Languages
Chelsea Cox, graduate student in Modern Languages and Coffman Chair CMS website technician
Charlotte Stephens, Office Administrator, Department of Modern Languages