Wallace focuses on diversity

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 20, 2004

In a computer lab on the campus of Wallace Community College Selma Thursday afternoon, the only sound was students tapping away on their keyboards.

The make-up of the students in the room was similar to the population of Selma itself, an uneven mix of black and white faces.

WCCS President Dr. James Mitchell wants the college’s curriculum to reflect the diversity found in Selma and at the school.

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Each program at the college will gradually change the curriculum to incorporate more multicultural themes, where students learn about people from various backgrounds who have made an impact in a particular field.

“This is nothing new to higher education,” Mitchell said. “Nearly every college has at least some type of diversity offering, and in many ways we are behind.”

Theresa Nix, chairperson of the WCCS diversity committee, said the committee’s goal is to have every program at the college, including the technical departments, to incorporate some type of multiculturalism into the curriculum by 2006.

“We are gradually making this transition, but some of our programs are already years ahead,” Nix said. “Our goal is to bring the other programs up to speed.”

The 15-member Diversity Committee-composed of faculty, staff, and the Student Government President-meet regularly to monitor the progress of changing the curriculums, see what plans have been implemented and organize multicultural events, such as a “Foods of the World” lunch for students.

“Once a year we have keynote speakers to talk about issues facing the world or what they have accomplished, and we are also plan to hold workshops for instructors to help them find ways to incorporate diversity in their instruction.”

For instance, in accounting classes instructors will teach students accounting symbols from other countries along with those used in the U.S.

In math and science classes, students will learn about the works of well-known women scientists and mathematicians as well as men.

“The toughest part will be working with the technical programs,” said Nix. “We are still working on ways to bring different culture training into those classes.”

Mitchell supports the idea of bringing diversity to the forefront because, he says, when students graduate and decide to leave Selma in search of jobs, they are going to be working alongside people from a multitude of backgrounds, especially when the Hyundai plant opens in Montgomery and suppliers arrive in Dallas County.

“When we incorporate differences into our curriculum, we are teaching our students to appreciate those differences,” Mitchell said. “The purpose is to give students exposure to something other than black and white, and create a greater knowledge of the course.”

Nix, who also teaches English at the college, said the multicultural curriculum involves more than simply purchasing books with pictures of people of different races.

“In my class, we read stories and books from black writers, white writers, Spanish writers and Asian writers,” Nix said. “Students are still learning about literature and language use and getting a greater understanding of the world around us.”

Mitchell said the multicultural curriculum does not cost students or the college any more money, and it is another way to provide a well-rounded education.

“Understanding culture makes it easier for us to get along,” Mitchell said. “This is not just about race. There is also a focus on gender and religion. Our students are getting more of an education, not less.”

Mitchell said at WCCS’s Clanton extension office, the college is already beginning to offer English as a second language courses for the growing Spanish population there.

“Nothing ever stays the same, no matter how much people want it to,” Mitchell said. “Most employees now are looking for well-rounded people who can communicate with customers and be liberally educated for the world of work. Students who go to college are expecting not only to receive basic skills, they also want a broader view of the world.”