Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Diversify: Yes, We Can! Yes, We Did!

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Diversify: Yes, We Can! Yes, We Did!

Article excerpt

In my first 25 years as a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I often heard that our institution was not sufficiently diverse because it is cold in Wisconsin and underrepresented minority (URM) students will not leave home to attend an institution out of state.

As a scientist, I had not seen data to support these claims. After all, it is cold in Chicago, Ann Arbor, New York and Boston, too.

So six years ago I set out to determine whether it was true that we had built it--a great university--but they won't come.

First, I employed the principles of community-based outreach I learned while on sabbatical at the Center for Research on Minority Health at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

* One hopes to be invited into the community, not impose one's self.

* One must show up. No one builds credibility by email.

* Employ cultural sensitivity when you understand the communities' culture and cultural humility when you do not, i.e. you understand that you do not understand. Stop, look, listen, ask and learn.

* One always acknowledges the community knows more about its students, their aspirations and their needs than you do; thus, you invite the faculty to educate you as to how best to facilitate their success.

Second, I, a faculty member, showed up at institutions not previously visited by UW-Madison faculty recruiters. The students could not believe a faculty member actually came who could share their excitement about their research (not just hear about mine).

Third, I told the students I would help them go into higher education anywhere. Their success was my goal, my first concern.

Fourth, I revealed a specific strategy to enhance their admission at Research I institutions. In part, this entailed making them aware of all the disciplines that fall under biomedical sciences, and demonstrating there are multiple avenues to work with any given professor given the interdisciplinary approach to research. …

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