associate Provost’s message

Diversity and Multicultural Programs

 

Gordon

Dr. Myra E. Gordon, associate provost
for Diversity & Dual Career Developmen

Vision

“The vision is to significantly increase diversity at every level and in every unit at K-State,” said Myra Gordon, associate provost for Diversity and Dual Career Development. “We do this understanding that it will be an integral part of the university’s push to become a top 10 land-grant institution.”

The changing face of diversity

“K-State is blessed to have senior leaders who understand the importance of diversity,” Gordon said. “Without such leadership, little can happen at the university. We have important people who are fully cognizant of the issues and the extent to which excellence and diversity are coupled. As President Wefald often says, ‘It is in K-State’s enlightened self-interest to promote diversity.’”

Gordon drives the diversification efforts at K-State. She recognizes some success, but sees external expectations and demographics continually changing, which increases demand on the primacy and urgency of K-State’s diversity efforts.

Three segments need much more attention to increase K-State’s diversity: students; faculty, staff and administrators; and curriculum.

Diversity of the student body

“K-State’s Office of Admissions does what it can with its resources to recruit a diverse student body from Kansas’ 12th-grade graduating classes,” Gordon said. “More could be done to strengthen and broaden linkages to high schools with large minority enrollments; to support and mentor talented, motivated high school students prior to graduation; enhance student’s academic preparedness; connect with different strata of Kansas’ multicultural communities and in neighboring states; connect to a revitalized multicultural alumni base; provide more campus visitations and summer enrichment activities; and recruit a larger cadre of multicultural students to K-State.”

Trends in Kansas’ minority population continue to grow and change rapidly.

“Kansas’ minority patterns vary by ethnic group,” Gordon said. “We need an enhanced strategy to send culturally relevant representatives to these locales to recruit potential students. It’s all about presence with the right people in the right places.”

Scholarships are important for recruiting diverse student populations to K-State.

“Scholarships must be available for first-generation multicultural college students, because many come from low-income families.” Gordon said. “We must remove the most challenging barrier to access from the start. Scholarships make us competitive for the best multicultural students, regardless of economic need. Institutions serious about recruiting talented, multicultural students must have scholarships in hand, knowing that college decisions are often based on money. We must provide and expand support programs that help students not only have access, but success by supporting multicultural student organizations, encouraging academic excellence and providing a strong sense of community.”

Gordon advocates expanding successful pre-existing recruitment programs such as partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) that bring in graduate students. Additional partnership programs would include Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Tribal Colleges.

“Providing opportunities for multicultural students to travel internationally and to travel to relevant professional conferences is important,” Gordon said. “Most multicultural students can barely afford college, much less enrichment activities. With global workplaces and world interdependence, we know that the best-educated students need an international, study abroad experience.”

Diversity in faculty and staff

Emphasis is placed on recruiting, hiring and retaining multicultural faculty and staff members. Outside financial support helps the university quickly implement best practices.

Wayne Goins, jazz instructor in the Department of Music“Target-of-opportunity funding can help us hire stellar faculty of color interested in K-State when there is not yet an existing line,” Gordon said. “Bridge funding is needed to bring in that person. Later, as lines open up, target-of-opportunity hires can be picked up on regular university funds, thus freeing up the initial money to go after another target of opportunity.”

Another program focuses on recruiting faculty candidates who have completed all academic work except dissertations. These scholars would be allowed to finish the requirement of an advanced degree while positioning themselves for a career at K-State.

“The ABD Fellows program is very successful for attracting academicians to campus before they would ordinarily go on the market,” Gordon said. “Such individuals are brought to campus and mentored in their research and teaching by existing faculty. As circumstances warrant, we can offer tenure-track faculty positions.”

Diversity in the curriculum

Multicultural competency is the knowledge, skills and personal attributes college graduates need to live and work in a diverse world. K-State has acknowledged the importance of helping students develop multicultural competencies.

The Tilford Group at K-State is a research and development group consisting of interdisciplinary faculty, administrators and students who have developed a model of learning objectives focused on multicultural competence.

“Learning outcomes from our curricula should produce multicultural competence,” Gordon said. “Through years of research, both literature review and corporate focus groups, the Tilford Group has identified the cultural competencies students need after graduation. Curriculum transformation will lead to instilling these competencies in all of our students.

“One way to do this is through faculty incentives that provide resources to faculty who begin transforming the curriculum. We need to make small grant awards to faculty ready to do this work.”

The future of diversity at K-State

“If our fundraising mission succeeds, I am certain we can realize significant gains in diversity over the next five years.” Gordon said. “It’s a matter of institutional will, which I believe we have, and resources to get the job done. Current resources are sorely constrained, therefore making outside help necessary.

“Diversity is central to K-State’s evolution as a land-grant institution. Our alumni function in the real world and are not blind to what happens in America today. Corporate entities are critical, because major employers already understand the value of diversity in the workplace and the need for a culturally competent workforce. It is in their interest to help us to help them. It just makes sense to form partnerships with corporations that help K-State to change lives and put diversity in action.”