Anticipating interaction with more students and faculty of color, professor Michael Rodriguez of the political science department entered Sykes Ballroom B hoping to reach more of the West Chester University minority population.As a professor who has worked at other mostly Caucasian institutions, Rodriguez noted the importance of meeting other professors who teach courses focused on minorities.
Invited to the “Fishing for Faculty” event sponsored by the Latino American Student Organization, which was heldon Nov. 18, he accomplished his own personal goal and that of the event: to acquaint minority students and professors with other faculty of color as well as describe the types of diversity courses available.
Tony Santiago, president of LASO, said that the main purpose for sponsoring the event was to show students of color that there are courses and faculty at WCU that reflect their cultural background.
The university offers courses that focus primarily on racial and cultural issues and, as of fall 2002, instituted a “diverse communities” general education requirement in which students must take three credit hours of a course highlighting topics involving multiculturalism.
Dr. Linda Stevenson, a WCU political science professor also present at the event, said the diversity requirement was a “step in the right direction.” As director of the Latin American studies minor, she attended the event to advertise a Pan-American Association scholarship for juniors and spread the word about the minor.
Santiago said he believed that a greater existence of diverse curriculum and faculty, coupled with minority student awareness of these entities, could foster “a greater sense of community, increased student involvement, and better retention rates” among students of color.
Indeed, Dr. Anthony Antonio, assistant director at Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research, commented in his December 2003 article entitled “Diverse Student Bodies, Diverse Faculties” that “a diverse faculty and staff benefit a campus, particularly its students of color.”
He said that a multicultural faculty can help minority students by “(a) providing support to students from diverse backgrounds; (b) serving as symbols of the interest the institution has in people of color; (c) creating a comfortable environment for students of color; and (d) broadening the range of what is taught and how …”
While the event highlighted more Latin American course options, Santiago said that he looked forward to hosting a similar event next fall with all minority groups and organizations represented, a complete diversity course listing, and five faculty members for each minority category of Latino, African American, Asian American and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender origin.
Professor Rodriguez left “Fishing for Faculty” having met for the first time foreign language professor Erminio Braidotti. Assistant Director of the Social Equity Barbara Schneller also attended.
WCU student Maureen Pankowski, who handles public relations LASO, said she hoped students would become more aware of Latino and minority courses, enroll in them and thereby “broaden their horizons.