Lehigh University
Lehigh University


COE launches Multicultural Resource Center

Ed Shapiro (left) and MJ Bishop (right) chat at last month's grand opening of the COE's Multicultural Resource Center.

The College of Education has long been a champion of multiculturalism and has required students in all programs to take a multicultural course as part of their curriculum for the past several years. While this has allowed students to get introduced to and increase some awareness related to issues of diversity, finding ways to integrate the concept into the classroom environment in a practical way across programs has not always been easy.

That’s about to change. Thanks to an effort spearheaded by the college’s diversity committee, incorporating multiculturalism into the curriculum was made a little easier last month with the launch of the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC).

The MRC helps to infuse K-12 and college-level curriculum with diverse perspectives. Its library already includes a collection of physical and virtual resources including books, articles, Web site links, curriculum kits, videos and peer-reviewed research studies.

The goal is to encourage College of Education faculty to incorporate diversity into their curricula, according to MJ Bishop, associate professor of teaching, learning and technology and co-chair of the diversity committee.

“Too often, we miss opportunities to think practically about social justice and diversity,” says Bishop. “Ethnicity, socio-economic upbringing, cultural differences … they all play a role in how individuals learn. Including discussions of multiculturalism in the classroom helps put our understandings about teaching and learning in context.”

The College of Education an emphasis on social justice has earned the attention of the Lehigh community. Its counseling psychology program recently won the prestigious Suinn Award, for example, and the educational leadership program hosted a team of Kuwaiti administrators last spring. Its office of international programs helps bring the college’s curriculum to educators in South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Actually integrating diversity into the college’s curriculum by including current social trends and real multicultural examples has been difficult until now because of the lack of resources. As a result, the college’s diversity committee made the creation of the MRC a priority.

“Developing multicultural competence in a continuously evolving cultural climate is at the heart of effective educational practice,” says Arpana Inman, assistant professor of counseling psychology and co-chair of the committee. “Having this center available to both our faculty and our students really illustrates our commitment to creating as diverse and open-minded a learning environment as possible.”

Matt Malouf agrees. As the graduate assistant for the MRC and a doctoral student in counseling psychology, he understands first hand the relation of curriculum to the college's diversity efforts. He envisions a resource center for those who want help fostering supportive and open conversations both in and out of the classroom.

"This could range from helping faculty implement classroom interventions exploring power and privilege to helping students recognize discrimination based on gender or sexuality in applied settings,” he says.

Malouf also coordinates a monthly newsletter, hosts lectures and networking events, and makes sure the MRC provides training opportunities for faculty and staff.

“The intent of the MRC is to generate a climate of acceptance that advances multicultural awareness,” Malouf says. “The college is already committed to these issues, but the MRC allows us to start embracing multicultural issues in a way that hasn’t been done before.”

The MRC is located on the first floor of Iacocca Hall and is open to all faculty, staff, and students of the university.

--Natalia Krepak

Posted on Wednesday, December 05, 2007

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