"Agriculture: Rooted in Diversity" - A Course Model for Infusing Multiculturalism into the Curriculum

Article excerpt


An innovative course was developed that infused multiculturalism into the agriculture curriculum and strengthened university general education core course offerings in diversity and cultural studies. The course facilitated interaction among agriculture and humanities students and dialogue across disciplines. Innovative aspects of the class included collaboration and multiple course listings among all multicultural programs offered by the various colleges. The course provided undergraduate students with opportunities to conduct independent research and utilize a wide range of museum, archival, and library resources. Opportunities to travel throughout the region afforded students insight into agricultural history and cultural resources. Student research lead to the development of museum quality exhibits that are showcased in an event and public reception culminating the semester. Dissemination of student work continued after the course concluded in the form of traveling exhibits, loans to museums, displays in county extension offices, and prominent displays in university buildings and classrooms. Such showcasing of student work met the goal of increasing visibility of women and minorities in agriculture while enriching the diversity and cultural study components of the university curriculum.


The inspiration for this project was a workshop, "Infusing Multiculturalism into the Curriculum," at the 2002 National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC), Winter Meeting, Washington D. C. The workshop leader, Dr. Cathleen T. Love, Professor of Agricultural and Extension Education, Pennsylvania State University, and co-author of an earlier article on this subject (Oltjenbruns and Love, 1998), began the workshop posing the question: How many of your college of agriculture buildings have images of minorities and women on public display? Most of the workshop participants, primarily administrators and faculty leaders, could not answer affirmatively. Her point was to illustrate the unintentional message some agriculture colleges may send to our female and minority students and campus visitors about inclusion and exclusion by displaying photos of predominantly white males. The University of Wyoming, College of Agriculture building was lacking such images. Hence, it occurred to me that we could address this issue and achieve several educational objectives while pursuing the goal of creating a more welcoming environment in our college.

I wanted women and minorities to see their images and historical accounts of their contributions to agriculture when they are in the University of Wyoming (UW) agriculture building hallways, auditorium and classrooms. To do so created a greater opportunity for infusing multiculturalism into our agriculture curriculum. I took the opportunity to develop an innovative course, "Agriculture: Rooted in Diversity," with the broad theme of making visible the experiences of women and minorities in agriculture. Beyond that principle goal were the educational objectives of giving undergraduate students opportunities to do independent diversity research and to create university wide linkages among agriculture, liberal arts and multicultural programs, thus enhancing the agriculture curriculum and reciprocating by giving greater exposure to agriculture among non agriculture students.


Project planning began with support from a Wyoming Council for the Humanities (WCH) Planning Grant based on the following goals: a) to sponsor history of agricultural diversity theme events for dissemination across campus and communities statewide, b) to create a more welcoming learning and working environment in the UW College of Agriculture, sensitive to women and minorities, c) to enrich the college's educational curriculum and archives related to the history of women and diversity in agriculture, d) to expand the university curriculum and opportunities for interdisciplinary work in the humanities. …