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Inclusive Excellence IV: The Plan

Now you have the job.  You have your Chancellor’s back and he/she has yours.  The relationship has been established.  

Time to get to work.

I am going to use a real-life situation so you can see aspects of the model in action.  There are going to be gaping holes in the model.  That’s why we call it a model.  The game plan is that you take it, and match the major aspects of the model…the hinges upon which it sits, to your particular social and cultural environment. 

Know that each situation is different.  Each university is different.  You will have to match your intervention to fit the particulars of your university – it’s size, the particular state it is in, where you draw your students from, the type of weather you enjoy, et cetera.   These particulars, which may seem peripheral, are integral to your success in attracting students to your university.  I will revisit this point later in the presentation. 

 You will also find similarities.  There are certain similarities to all universities despite size or geography.  Then there are similarities that small universities enjoy, others particular to large universities, others to Midwestern universities, and other still to Southern universities.   Certain aspects in the model, therefore, can cross…can be used anywhere.   However, to make this model work, you will have to take the skeleton and clothe it in the body relevant to your situation and circumstance.   This means that you have to know your particular situation and circumstance.   That is the very first thing.  This too, I will get back to.  But you can place it as number one right now.

Throughout this piece, I am going to propose that you do a number of things and ask a number of questions.  What I will also do is attempt to consistently link both the directives and the challenges back to Inclusive Excellence (IE).  I will try to explain what these questions have to do with moving your university toward IE. 

Finally, do not expect a straight-line solution to this challenge.  Just as with any good recipe for creating a cake, you bring in diverse elements, mix them together in appropriate proportion, and then allow it to bake at the appropriate temperature.  Work diligently but be patient.   Remember that it is not as if everybody wants you in their kitchen in the first place.  Many are very happy with the cup cakes they have enjoyed over the past fifty years!  They are none-too-happy about you being in their kitchen tinkering with stuff.  It is okay to have the rhetoric of change.  In fact, many of us have been hired to lead the rhetoric of change.  But when you begin the process of change (a) it is not linear, and (b) there is a necessary process of grief that will be incurred.  This is another piece I hope we will discuss.    

Here we go.

1.     Learn Your Town/City.

This means that you learn everything about the place that you are going to.  

  1. When was your town/city built and why was it was built?  What were the social-historical circumstances that led to its being built?  What is its financial profile?  What is its social profile?   What percentage of your residents has attained a four-year degree?  How slowly or quickly does your town/city change?  What percentage of the population in your town/city is retained?  What percentage was born in the town/city, grew up there, went to school there, and still resides there?  Is your town/city a manufacturing based economy, a technology-based economy, or are you a university town where a large percentage of the economy revolves around the university?  Is your community heavily conservative, heavily democratic, or a mixture?  Would your town/city be considered an urban, suburban, or metropolis environment?  Do stores open late?  What is considered late?  Are there places within your town/city that ethnic and social minorities (to your town) can comfortably get needs met – haircut, meal, music, et cetera?  Are there available radio and television channels that serve or recognize ethnic and/or social minority populations? 

This is an incomplete list of the questions you have to answer before anything else can be done.

2.     Learn Your University.

This means that you learn everything about the place that you are going to.

  1. I know that you guys meet with all the social and ethnic groups and/or their representatives.  That is great.  I know that some of you even have informal meetings with students.  Beautiful.   I also know that many of you have great climate surveys commissioned.  Wonderful.  Let me add a little bit to your hard work. 

When was your university built, why was it built, how was it established? What type of students does it attract?  Are they first-generation or second-generation?  Where do they come from?  Are they primarily from within the community, within the state, adjoining states, or from all around the country and the world?  How wide is its net?  If given the names of a number of universities, which ones would your university think itself close to, relative to prestige?   Would it say that it matches up well against a University of Michigan, a UCLA, or Whitewater?  On what is that assessment based; numbers of students, strength of athletic program, strength of its academic program, endowment?  What is that assessment based on?  How accurate is that assessment?  Do the students agree?  Does the community agree with that assessment?  Does your university have a long history of support for and integration of ethnic and social diversity cultures, or is this process in its infant stages?  That you have had an ongoing process for years does not mean that there has been any or any substantial progress.   How committed are your ethnic and social diverse cultures to the university?  Do they attend your sporting events?  Do they purchase and proudly don your clothing? Do they bleed your colors or do they simply go to your school?   If I pick up the school newspaper, do I see myself reflected anywhere, or is it only in the sport section?   Am I evidenced anywhere in your alumni magazine?   What is the make-up of your Board of Regents?  How has that make-up shifted over the past fifty years… or has it? 

Here again – another incomplete list of questions that must be answered before anything can be done.

3.     Learn the Relationship Between the University and the Community.   

Here you are trying to find out if the university sees itself as an integral part of and player in the community, if the community and its attendant school district agree, and how that relationship might be demonstrated.  Some universities are the main employer in the community.  That is where the term “university town” comes from. For example: Madison, Wisconsin is a university town.  There is a very dramatic and much evidenced shift when the university is in recess.  Here are some of the questions you need answered.

  1.  What is the relationship between the community and the university?  How is that evidenced?  Are there any radio stations, stores, television stations, or barber shops that cater to diverse populations?  Do your students feel comfortable going down-town?  Do they pick up on-campus jobs or are there student jobs available downtown?   Do you have a rhythm and blues station?  Do you have a world music station?  Do you have clubs that students can feel comfortable at, or does that have to all happen on the campus?  Is there a self-imposed curfew that student hold themselves to?  That means, do they feel safe being off campus late at night?  How late do the buses run?   If I pick up the local newspaper, do I see myself reflected anywhere, or is it only in the sport section?    What is the relationship between the university and the school district?  How is that evidenced? Are there vibrant, ongoing academic relationships or is it that the university simply sends their teacher-education interns for the school district to absorb?  Are there ongoing tutoring, mentoring, and pre-college programs?  Is there a standing committee in discussion on this very issue of student readiness, recruitment and retention? 

These are some of the answers you will need addressed before you could move forward with this work.

After you get those answers, you have your data set and all cleaned-up; now you are ready to get to work on this thing. 

Let me take a few of these questions I have posed and answer them for you.  What I am doing here is simply giving you an example and explaining, as I go along, why this information is so important to your success in developing an intervention strategy.  Yes, it is an intervention strategy.  If things were going right, you wouldn’t need intervention.  Just the admission of a wish for intervention suggests that something is not as you wish or expect it to be.

That is next.

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Engaging is the beginning...Diversity is not a dirty word.  Nor is multiculturalism.  It is simple.  The world has changed before our eyes and we need to change, too.

I am Dr. Al Felice.  I am a Doctor of Psychology with a specialization in ethnic and social minority cultures.

Multiculturism is an invitation to embrace diversity.  Diversity of thought, shape, color, culture, attributes, character, race, gender, and abilities.  At best, multiculturism is a dream for the beloved community- an inclusive community where everyone can have a meaningful role.  It may be a Utopian dream, but if we do not dream it, and practice it in small steps, we will fail as a species.

This blog is my exploration of that dream and its mandate.  I invite you to challenge me, offer ideas, express your frustration and share your delights. 

In my homeland of Trinidad, West Indies, we have a saying:  All of we is one.  Despite the pain we cause each other, I hold this to be true.

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