Highlights of Diversity Forum 2013: Day 2

Diversity Committee chairs lead discussion on future plans

Ruth Litovsky and Ryan Adserias, co-chairs of University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Ad Hoc Diversity Committee, led a discussion Tuesday on innovating diversity plans.

“How is it that diversity and inclusive excellence can move forward, so that students can go out in the world, be leaders in the world, so we can be leaders in the community?” Litovsky said.

To begin diversity innovation, the Diversity Committee has expanded the definition of diversity to consider more than ethnicity, Adserias said. Diversity at UW-Madison includes all areas of identity, such as job level, thinking styles, physical abilities and experience.

“We all have different identities that are important to realize and that are important to value,” Adserias said.

Litovsky and Adserias stressed the importance of collaboration among UW-Madison’s faculty, staff, students, active alumni and other partners in the community in order to make effective diversity plans.

Starting in November, regular conversations focused on the status of diversity will foster active engagement and collaboration among various individuals at UW-Madison, according to Litovsky.

During a small-scale conversation at the discussion, attendees expressed what they would like to see in the developing diversity plans and their views on the challenges UW-Madison faces in achieving inclusivity and diversity.

One major challenge participants said UW-Madison faced in achieving diversity is that Wisconsin itself is not diverse, and it is hard to spark change on a campus when we are in a state that struggles with diversity as a whole.

Many attendees also expressed they would like to see a more diverse staff, a larger budget focused solely on diversity and increased awareness to those diverse in ways beyond ethnicity, such as LGBT groups and the physically disabled

—Jackie Bannon


UW officials say educational changes lead to new innovations

During a breakout session at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Diversity Forum Tuesday, two UW-Madison officials led a discussion about how the university is innovating learning in response to changes in higher education.

Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor of UW Extension Aaron Brower and Vice Provost for Lifelong Learning and Dean of the Division of Continuing Studies Jeffrey Russell both gave input on a changing education scene.

Brower said higher education is drastically changing, at a more significant rate than at any other time in history.

For instance, he said access to higher education has drastically increased, where now over 70 percent of the population receives some form of post-secondary education.

However, Brower also said public funding for public education 40 years ago was double what it is today. At the time, he said 70 percent of college operating budgets were funded by the state, while today in Wisconsin the state funding level is 20 percent and in Madison it is about 15 percent.

“This being said, we need new models for how higher education is funded,” Brower said.

Other changes to higher education involve greater numbers of non-traditional students. The national proportion of “traditional” students, meaning full-time, residential students between the ages of 18-25, is only 15 percent, Brower said. This means 85 percent are non-traditional students returning to school for new credentials, new skills, a 2-year degree or other reasons.

Brower said technology can provide the means to accommodate some of these changes.

“Technology provides opportunities in education that never existed before, now students have the same access to technology as teachers do,” Brower said.

With the introduction of Massive Open Online Courses, and similar programs, Russell said people are beginning to ask, “how do we design learning?”

According to Russell, there is a need to create opportunities for all to learn. One way he said the college can do this is by creating programs that are accessible, and non-credit classes based on acquiring new skill sets, such analytics or writing skills.

Brower introduced an alternative learning model UW Extension helped create, called UW Flexible option.

He said traditional learning models do not work for everyone, which is why an alternative route like UW Flexible option might be preferred as a way to get an alternative degree from UW. He said thr option is a competency-based approach to education.

Flexible option will open its first degree program next month at UW-Milwaukee. He said for the bachelors of nursing program, various teachers identified outcomes students must be able to achieve. Instead of organizing those into courses with periodic assessments to prove they know the skills, students will work their way through these assessments at their own pace. 

—Megan Stoebig

Speaker encourages schools to have clear diversity missions

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Diversity Forum ended Tuesday with a keynote address from attorney Katherine Lipper Tuesday, who focused on how higher education institutions can fairly represent minorities.

Lipper is a policy and legal advisor at Education Counsel. She addressed the legal issues involved with diversity in higher education, including how to implement race-neutral practices and how schools can benefit from having a diverse student body.

According to Lipper, schools need to have “mission-driven goals” and evaluate current policies.

Lipper also encouraged universities to go beyond admissions when addressing diversity issues to connect with financial aid, recruitment and outreach offices.

According to Lipper, campuses need a significant number of under-represented minority students on campus to “achieve the educational benefits of diversity, and so the student feels like an individual, not a representative for his or her race.”

Provost Paul DeLuca, who is going to be stepping down this year, concluded the forum by discussing the changes in administration at UW-Madison and welcomed Chancellor Rebecca Blank and new faculty.

“The landscape is changing,” Deluca said. “The structure is in place to take us to the next level.”

—Dana Kampa

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