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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: October 20, 2003
Volume 39, Number 7

UNM takes lead in diversity project

By Carolyn Gonzales

UNM has been awarded a $400,000 Ford Foundation grant to establish and lead a consortium of four southwestern universities in a project aimed at enhancing academic culture through increased campus diversity, in part by attracting and engaging underrepresented groups and women in the campus community.

“Rather than proposing a pilot program at one university, UNM proposes to proactively sponsor a program of institutional change across a variety of institutions already deeply involved in responding to demographic challenges,” said Dr. Roberto Ibarra, UNM special assistant to the president for diversity.

In addition to UNM and New Mexico State University—two of the nation’s three Hispanic-serving and research/doctoral-extensive institutions—other consortium partners include Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

“Each partner has expressed its commitment to diversity, agreed to evaluate seriously its institutional policies and structures and demonstrated a willingness to support consortium efforts,” said Ibarra, author of, “Beyond Affirmative Action: Reframing the Context of Higher Education.”

Ibarra says higher education systems used in the United States are based upon a German model. “It [the German model] worked well in Germany and even in the U.S. until colleges and universities started admitting and educating individuals who bring with them learned cultural preferences that influence how they interact and associate with others, use living spaces, perceive concepts of time and other values and factors that help shape their world view. We don’t recommend throwing out the old model, but rather expanding upon it to make it larger and more inclusive,” he said.

He says that diversity programs at most institutions have been reduced to a human resources function.

Each of the four campuses will be encouraged—through activities such as faculty development programs, new curriculum models and peer mentoring—to embrace multicontextuality, Ibarra said, “in order to attract and effectively educate learners of all types.”

At UNM, Ibarra said, efforts are now underway to make a more inclusive environment by introducing specific ideas within the curriculum to create an inviting environment for people of various backgrounds and identities.

“New curricula in University College and the School of Engineering will reflect principles of multicontextuality and will incorporate a rigorous assessment component so that they can easily serve as models for extension into other colleges and schools within the university.”