First Annual Diversity Challenge: "How to Survive Teaching Courses on Race and Culture". (Special Section: Diversity Challenge)

By Helms, Janet E.; Malone, La Toya Shakes et al. | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, January 2003 | Go to article overview

First Annual Diversity Challenge: "How to Survive Teaching Courses on Race and Culture". (Special Section: Diversity Challenge)


Helms, Janet E., Malone, La Toya Shakes, Henze, Kevin, Satiani, Anmol, Perry, Justin, Warren, Anika, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


The authors discuss the highlights of the 1st annual Diversity Challenge held October 11-12, 2001, at Boston College, Boston, MA. The Challenge's general focus was preparing educators to cope with the resistances encountered when they teach about race and ethnic culture. This introduction (a) provides an overview of the proceedings, (b) summarizes themes of presentations and articles selected, and (c) offers recommendations for subsequent events.

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Diversity Challenge is an annual 2-day conference offered in the fall by the Institute for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture (ISPRC) at Boston College. Janet E. Helms (first author) directs both the Challenge and the ISPRC. The general goals of the ISPRC are to (a) promote the assets of various racial and cultural groups; (b) use theory, research, and psychoeducational interventions to demystify societal conflicts associated with race and ethnic culture in national, regional, and societal domains; (c) solicit, design, and disseminate effective interventions with a proactive, pragmatic focus; and (d) promote nationwide collaboration between professionals and laypersons interested in fostering harmonious racial and cultural environments.

In keeping with the goals of the ISPRC, each year the Diversity Challenge staff selects an unresolved racial or cultural issue whose resolution would benefit local and national racial and cultural groups as well as societies around the world. The Challenge serves as a venue for scholars from various disciplines, educators, practitioners, and community activists, as well as others (e.g., parents, students) with a vested interest in such resolution, to come together to discuss common concerns and to offer solutions to the types of racial and cultural issues that are the focus of Diversity Challenge.

rationale for diversity challenge 2001

The theme of Diversity Challenge 2001 was teaching about race and culture to resistant populations in a variety of settings and disciplines. In response to the increasing racial and ethnic cultural diversity of U.S. society, various professional associations (American Psychological Association, as cited in Robinson & Morris, 2000; American Psychological Association, Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation, 1996) have called for a greater emphasis on teaching about racial and cultural dynamics throughout the life span. However, while responding to such calls, many educators and other specialists have often found themselves facing students who are resistant to a focus on race or ethnic culture (Jackson, 1999; Karp & Sammour, 2000) and who act out their resistance by punishing the educator. Punishment may range from a mere lack of willingness to engage in the learning process when race and culture are an aspect of it to racial harassment. The harassment may include poor evaluations and complaints to higher-ups, responses that often eventually result in demoralization of the educator or loss of employment. The theme of Diversity Challenge 2001, "How to Survive Teaching Courses on Race and Culture," grew out of requests from educators in various specialties, settings, and levels of education to help them find more effective strategies for overcoming resistance and for a place to share with others the strategies that had worked for them.

overview of the proceedings of diversity challenge 2001

Thus, Diversity Challenge 2001 featured presentations that provided pragmatic information about teaching courses on race and culture. The specific aims of the conference were to (a) share curricula and teaching strategies that work, (b) provide information about research associated with effective teaching strategies, (c) provide faculty and administrators with mental health information about race and culture, and (d) provide a safe environment for race and culture educators to share effective coping strategies. Diversity Challenge occurred 1 month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, and Boston was one of the sites from which the attacks were launched.

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