by Michael J. Gonzales
For over a decade the Multicultural Curriculum Transformation Institute has provided faculty with ideas and scholarly resources to make their courses more inclusive of people traditionally under-represented in the curriculum.
The institute emerged from the demands from NIU students for more courses reflective of the growing diversity of the country, region, and campus, and the corresponding need to learn more about changing student populations in the classroom.
The institute provides a safe environment for colleagues to discuss ideas about diversifying the curriculum, and ways to improve teaching effectiveness.
Participants attend a series of workshops led by NIU faculty that focus on topics of special interest, such as race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, changing student demographics and economic conditions and students with special needs.
The institute also provides an opportunity for participants to hear from students themselves about their experiences in the classroom, and from faculty who have previously graduated from the Institute and successfully transformed courses. Scholarly publications about these and related topics are distributed and serve as background information for daily discussions, and for use in the transformation of individual courses.
Each day following the workshops, participants reconvene in small groups to discuss the courses that they have targeted for transformation. They are guided in these interactions by a committee member experienced at the task.
This year’s institute also features plenary speakers: Mathew Ouelett from the University of Massachusetts and professor Christine Stanley from Texas A&M University will offer strategic ideas and scholarly references to assist us.
For example, one colleague wrote, “I enjoyed the institute and found it helpful, and I was amazed at how much the transformation (of my course) impacted how well my class ran. I made very significant changes to the syllabus and (in) the tone of the class, and my classes were much more enjoyable to teach! My students participated far more (and) really enjoyed the material … At the end of the semester my evaluations went up significantly.”
Another colleague commented, “The MCTI has changed my teaching and my interactions with students. I have enjoyed teaching much more since putting into practice the things I learned during the institute.”
Those eligible to apply for participation in the institute include tenured and tenure-track faculty, full-time instructors (2012-13) and Supporting Professional Staff who teach. Faculty and staff on 12-month contracts are eligible to apply, but they cannot receive a stipend. Some sessions are also open to the university community. Those selected to participate must attend all workshops, the plenary session and assigned small group meetings.
At the end of the institute, each participant also is required to submit a redesigned syllabus that reflects the transformation of a course and to give a presentation in fall, 2013 that explains how the course has changed. Institute participants, committee members and other interested faculty and staff will be invited to attend these presentations.
Upon completion of the talk, each participant will receive a stipend of $1,000.
Applications are available online to participate in the Multicultural Curriculum Transformation Institute, scheduled from May 13 to May 17, 2013, in the Holmes Student Center. The application deadline is Monday, Dec. 3. For more information, contact Kayla Schnacky at (815) 753-8557 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Gonzales is chair of the Multicultural Curriculum Transformation Committee for 2012-13, director of the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies and a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of History.