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Affirming diversity takes time
2 December 2005
by Lisa Azure, UTTC Teacher Education Director

      Most universities are not traditionally designed to promote diversity. That's the view of an educator and researcher who studies multicultural education.

      Dr. Cathy Kea, a full Professor and coordinator of the Special Education Program at North Carolina A&T State University, believes that colleges need to work at it.

Dr. Cathy Kea
Dr. Cathy Kea, North Carolina A & T State University

      Kea presented an afternoon of learning and discussion November 4 at United Tribes Technical College focused on infusing diversity into course syllabi.

      "How are you at affirming your student population here at United Tribes," Kea asked. "Most curricula do not affirm who minority students are."

      Why American Indian students would need affirmation is seen in how few are successful in mainstream education. Of 100 Native American students in kindergarten today, Kea said that 58 would go on to graduate from high school, and only seven would earn a bachelor's degree.

      Kea believes that "cultural confidence" is a key factor.

      The role of the culturally responsive educator is to "affirm who the students are." She suggests educators focus on "adding education to the student's culture."

Dr. Kea and UTTC instructors
Dr. Kathey Kea shows her approval of a UTTC course syllabus that promotes diversity. Reviewing the document are UTTC instructors, from left, Harriett Skye, Dennis Renville, Brian Palecek and Mike Matheny. UTN photo Dennis J. Neumann

      Kea's strengths based approach calls on educators to build on the cultural knowledge and orientation that students already have when they come to campus.

      "It's not enough to have diversity studies courses," Kea said. "They often become the dumping ground for meeting minimum requirements. We must infuse diversity across the board."

      "It's our role to examine where to infuse cultural values into the curriculum," Kea said. "It's not an overnight process."

      Kea helped United Tribes faculty members examine their course syllabi. Her talk was funded, in part, by the Monarch Center, University of Illinois at Chicago. The center supports professional development at institutions like United Tribes that have OSEP personnel preparation grants.


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