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The University of Wisconsin-Stout will be honored later this month by the state of Wisconsin for its efforts to blend diversity-based concepts into its curriculum in an attempt to increase the retention rate of a diverse student population.
UW-Stout will receive the Ann Lydecker Educational Diversity Award Oct. 25 in the state Capitol. The award is sponsored by the Wisconsin State Council on Affirmative Action.
“This award is a recognition of the tremendous efforts of our faculty and staff to find innovative and effective ways to close the achievement and retention gap between our minority students and our majority students,” said Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen, who will attend the ceremony in Madison to accept the award. “We have put a lot of effort into these goals, and it is rewarding to be recognized for that work.”
The award is named after Ann Lydecker, chancellor at UW-River Falls who was killed in a car accident in March 2004.
“Our faculty and staff who participated in this pilot project really deserve all the credit for this award,” said Mary Hopkins-Best, interim provost and vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs. “They accepted the challenge to be creative in how we could teach diversity in new and different ways to be more effective.”
The project was administered by the UW-Stout Nakatani Teaching and Learning Center under director Renee Howarton. It consisted of:
• Faculty and staff participants engaged in a two-day workshop in summer 2011 designed to increase their understanding of what characterizes an inclusive curriculum. They then met monthly to further deepen their understanding of diversity concepts and develop assignments, methods and assessment tools for their spring courses that would reflect an inclusive curriculum.
• A survey was designed and distributed to all students enrolled in the diversity-based courses during spring 2012. The results were positive, with the majority of students either agreeing or strongly agreeing that their course experiences were better than previous ones. They were more comfortable talking about diversity-based issues; the classroom environment was more comfortable, encouraging them to share their thoughts more freely; they believed that everyone was treated equitably in class; and they felt that their instructor respected everyone.
• Participants were interviewed and videotaped regarding their initial project perceptions, desired student learning outcomes and curriculum modifications.
“Experiences like these create an environment that builds relationships and nurtures a sense of connectedness in the classroom,” Howarton said. “Feeling that one is valued in a course is considered by many to be a key element in retaining students. Likewise, faculty who participated in the project felt challenged at times but also energized and engaged with their students.”
This is the second year in a row UW-Stout will be honored for its efforts to help retain racial and ethnic minority students to remain in school. Last year the state Council on Affirmative Action, a citizen advisory group, and the Office of State Employment Relations gave the university a Program Achievement Diversity Award for its overall success in improving the retention rates for minority students.
This year’s winners will be celebrated at the annual Diversity Awards Ceremony at the state Capitol Senate Parlor beginning with a reception at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, followed by the awards presentation at 1 p.m. The keynote speaker will be Reginald Newson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. The ceremony is being sponsored by the State Council on Affirmative Action and the Office of State Employment Relations.
The 2012 Diversity Award will go to the Wisconsin Department of Administration for its successful efforts to recruit and hire Wisconsin’s disabled veterans. Program achievement mentions will go to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and UW-Whitewater.