UW News

January 5, 2006

New diversity minor launched this quarter

Starting this quarter, students will be able to work toward a minor in diversity at the UW. By taking one foundational course and a number of electives offered in a variety of departments, students in any major can earn a minor in this interdisciplinary program.

“We wanted to offer another option for students to pursue in case they were thinking about a foundational interest in matters of diversity but not a full-blown major,” said Enrique “Rick” Bonus, a professor in American Ethnic Studies who will direct the minor program. “So for example, someone in the sciences might be thinking about diversity and could have a minor in it along with his or her degree.”

The minor, Bonus said, came out of some brainstorming he and others did about how to address the persistent call for a diversity requirement in the UW curriculum. Proposals for such a requirement have been rejected more than once by the Faculty Senate.

“I think the minor represents a different strategy to achieve what diversity requirement proponents wanted,” said Judy Howard, divisional dean of social sciences in the College of Arts & Sciences. “In a way, it’s a much richer option. It’s not required, but a requirement would have been only five credits; this provides much more.” A total of 25 credits must be earned for the minor.

The brainstorming group proposed the creation of a diversity minor through the provost’s Fund for Innovation and Redesign. When the proposal was funded, a committee was formed to design the program.

“Last year we got a very important and joyous announcement from the Board of Regents that they’re pumping in money — $85,000 in permanent funding for the diversity minor,” Bonus said.

The committee started its work in the fall of last year, Bonus said. Participants spent a lot of their time discussing foundation courses. They asked for applications from faculty who wanted their courses to be considered, and also solicited new courses. Once the foundation courses were chosen, each one’s syllabus was discussed.

“We wanted to have coherence and consistency across all the foundation courses,” Bonus said. “They’re all from different departments, so we wanted to be sure that the basic issues were covered in all of them while using different material.”

There are six foundation courses. This quarter, two of them — Introduction to Women Studies (Women 200) and People of the USA (History 105) will be offered. Other foundation courses include: Introduction to American Ethnic Groups (AES 151), Religion, Identity and Cultural Pluralism (Anthropology 330), Introduction to Disability Studies (LSJ/CHID 332), and Racism and Minority Groups (Psychology 250). An additional history course and a communication course are being developed as foundation courses.

“The foundation course is to expose the student to the baseline issues with regard to diversity — which is about the study of social categorization and power,” Bonus said.

The elective courses come from five categories: arts/cultural, historical, global, contemporary/institutional, and application. Students are required to take courses from four of these categories to earn the minor. “We also encourage students to partake in service learning, independent studies or interships that interface with diversity outside the classroom,” said Derek White, a graduate student who is working on a master’s in multicultural education and has been hired as coordinator and student academic advisor of the program. said.

“I’ve been getting inquiries about the minor,” White said. “It’s hard to tell at this point how popular it’s going to be. We’re still getting the word out.” Students interested in the minor should contact White at ddwhite@u.washington.edu.

Now that the minor is up and running, an advisory board is being formed to oversee its operation. The minor will be housed in American Ethnic Studies for the next three years, with Bonus as director. After that, it will rotate to other departments and other directors.

“I would expect students who earn this minor to get a basic knowledge of how to approach diversity,” White said. “I also would expect students to be able — with the minor on their transcript—to use that in their field. That’s good in the workforce, wherever you are.”

Bonus put it more broadly. “I see students getting another opportunity to enrich their education at the university,” he said. “There are a number of students who are interested in diversity in both breadth and depth so they do ethnic studies majors, they do women studies etc. There is another set of students out there who are obtaining degrees in other majors. This minor provides yet another way of making their education more meaningful, as a supplement to whatever it is that they’re majoring in, to be exposed to information about diversity and power in ways they might not be able to in their own majors.”

Howard echoed Bonus’ thoughts about curricular enrichment. “I’m delighted that the college is moving forward with this,” she said. “Learning about different groups will help our students in their lives after graduation.”

For further information about the diversity minor, see http://depts.washington.edu/divminor.