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K-State Today

November 9, 2012

From the Provost's Desk: November letter to campus

Submitted by April Mason

Madai Rivera dancing at the Tilford conference

Dear Colleagues,

Last week Kansas State University hosted the Michael Tilford conference on Diversity and Multiculturalism on behalf of the Regents institutions. I was reminded once again how important diversity and multiculturalism are to our university and our future. The Tilford conference, held annually at a different Regents university, provides faculty, staff and administrators with information, strategies and hands-on best practices to advance and include diversity and multiculturalism in higher education.

This year’s conference included many workshops provided by faculty and staff of the Regents institutions, three keynote speakers and a tribute to women in higher education, including our own four women Regents. The conference started with Irving McPhail, president and chief executive officer of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering Inc. Dr. McPhail’s keynote was followed by a showcase of different dances illustrating the vast cultural expression of the arts on our campus under the direction of Joyce Yagerline. We learned we can all dance, but most can dance better than me! 

Loreto R. Prieto, director of the U.S. Latino/a studies program at Iowa State University, was the Tuesday keynote speaker. His talk, "Defining and Assessing Cultural Competency: Models, Methods and Minefields," got everyone talking. The lunch speaker was a special treat for me. Gregory Sawyer, vice president of student affairs at California State University-Channel Islands, challenged us to "Think Differently: Creating a Culturally Competent Community." We heard what he had to say!

Myra Gordon, associate provost for diversity, coordinated the whole conference with a committee from the Regents campuses. My personal thanks to Myra and all those who contributed to this important and truly groundbreaking conference calling our campus to create inclusion, cultural competency and understanding. I thank her also for reconnecting me with Greg Sawyer, a fellow Mount Union College graduate of the mid-1970s! 

Diversity and multiculturalism on our campus need to be in our classrooms, in our Union, on the streets of our campus and in our sports venues. We are all members of the Kansas State University community. Our diversity enhances that community. 

Increased diversity on our campus does not happen without much work and intention. Saturday evening we saw the transfer of a large check from Cargill to our office of diversity to continue the highly successful Project Impact, which brings students to our campus in the summer to take courses, become familiar with the place and form networks in our Colleges of Agriculture, Business Administration and Engineering. Cargill invests in this manner because they hire Kansas State graduates in high numbers and want them to be well prepared for a workplace that is increasingly diverse.

Cultural competence is not just the responsibility of our office of diversity. It is the responsibility of all of us at Kansas State University. Our course syllabi must be evaluated, and our references, our examples and our actions must be respectful and thoughtful to those different from ourselves. We have wonderful resources to assist. The Tilford conference is one such resource. Our Tilford Initiative program is another. Providing small grants to faculty to transform curricula to incorporate multicultural competencies into courses is its focus.

Our efforts to in the area of diversity and multiculturalism were recognized in the Higher Learning Commission reaccreditation report received this fall:

“The 2002 team expressed several concerns about diversity. These have been seriously addressed with increased funding and fundraising for the Office of Diversity, and an increasing number of multicultural programs across the campus. It is noteworthy that every college has a diversity officer, usually at the assistant dean level, who is the point person for diversity in the unit. Further, diversity has been one of the undergraduate student learning outcomes since 2004. The Tilford Initiative for Multi-Cultural Curriculum Transformation has supported the development of multicultural competencies through faculty development grants to encourage faculty to integrate these competencies into their courses. Diversity has also been a priority in student recruiting, with 36 percent growth in African American enrollment, and 88 percent growth in Hispanic enrollment from 2007-2011. For Fall 2011, 14 percent of the undergraduate student population were from historically under-represented groups. The university offers a full range of programs to support the success of these students, and many faculty and staff members expressed deep commitment to the success of these students.”

Many of us were not at Kansas State in 2002, but we are here in 2012. Our imperative is to continue the work started in 2002. Dr. Gordon shared an African proverb with me: Those who built the bridge are soon forgotten by those who traverse it daily. As we traverse our campus daily, let us never forget those who have built the bridge to inclusion, diversity, appreciation and multiculturalism. Do not forget them; indeed let’s continue to work together and build bridges so our campus is even more diverse and inclusive in 2025.

Thank you for all you do.