Diversity Progress

Progress Toward Our Goals, June 2005

“The problem of racism in the United States is the responsibility of us all, most especially the responsibility of those of us who are white, and absolutely the responsibility of every one of this nation’s educators” G. Pritchy Smith, 1998).


Institutions. The values that underpin the College of Saint Benedict (CSB) and Saint John’s University (SJU) provide an ethical imperative to conscientiously and comprehensively address diversity. As liberal arts institutions, our joint 1998-2000 college catalogue reads that CSB/SJU exist to help ensure the “preservation of human culture[s], to deepen human understanding and interdependence, and to prepare students for fully integrated lives of thought, action and love.” As Benedictine institutions, we are committed to “the cultivation of the love of God, neighbor and self through the art of listening, worship and balanced, humane living.”  Another central Benedictine value to which we are committed is the “recognition of individual worth.” These liberal arts and Benedictine values are not simply compatible with diversity initiatives; they demand them.

There is also a very practical imperative that propels CSB and SJU forward to act on their joint commitment to diversity. The percentage of ethnic and racial minorities in the United States is increasing. Current national demographics reveal that about 30% of the nation’s school-age population is non-white. By the year 2020, the non-white school-age population is predicted to top 50%. Moreover, the number of school-aged children living in poverty is expected to increase substantially from the current rate of 20%. Colleges, secondary and elementary schools (as well as all other major social institutions) must prepare deliberately for these anticipated changes. CSB and SJU must help ensure that their graduates are prepared to live peacefully and productively in our increasingly pluralistic world.

Education Department. Commitment to diversity is an integral part of the Education Department’s philosophy and model. The department philosophy statement identifies a number of values that inform teachers’ decisions. Two of those values are particularly germane to its perspective on diversity. One is our desire to promote humane interaction. The second is our belief that all children, without exception, are capable of experiencing academic success. The Education Department is deeply committed to these values with its diversity plan.

As its Teacher as Decision-Maker model would indicate, the Education Department’s goal is to prepare candidates who are equipped to make effective and responsible decisions on behalf of their students’ learning and development. According to James A. Banks (p. 34), “[t]he key goal of the multicultural curriculum should be to help students develop decision-making...skills.” He explains that effective and responsible decision-making requires higher level thinking and acknowledge, clarification of related values, and informed action choices. A perusal of the Teacher as Decision Maker model confirms that those components form the backbone of the Education Department’s model. The model is intended as a guide to ensure that our candidates have the necessary professional preparation to ensure that all learners have the opportunity to succeed.

Our diversity plan emerges naturally from our status as liberal arts institutions, from our shared Benedictine values, from the Education Department’s deeply held convictions about all learners, from the department’s decision-making model, and from the practical necessity imposed by rapidly changing demographics.

The Education Department recognizes that the challenge of addressing diversity is a rather daunting one. There are no quick fixes for tasks of this dimension and importance. The department recognizes, too, that the challenges may be compounded by its history. Our colleges are largely white institutions that attract largely white populations. Moreover, they have been steeped in a liberal arts tradition that for centuries was dominated by white-male thought. The department will, therefore, undoubtedly struggle with the challenge to re-make itself in the years ahead. And, as Peggy McIntosh suggests in the description of her diversity paradigm, our department will have to invent much of this as it moves forward. However, the department is not deterred from this challenge. The plan laid out in this document is not pure invention, as much has been borrowed from the works of James A. Banks, Peggy McIntosh, and others. The writings of these courageous ground breakers have helped us articulate our plan’s purposes and processes.


From a fairly early age, we tend to intuitively know how to “act like a teacher” (Stigler and Hiebart, 1999).” As children, we internalize the script for the teacher role. And because that role is learned early and reinforced so systematically by our experiences throughout the K-12 system, it is quite resistant to change. The script, moreover, is especially resistant to piecemeal reform efforts (Stigler and Hiebart,1999). Changing the way we schedule courses over the school day or week, for example, is unlikely, by itself, to result in meaningful or sustained change. Instead, the familiar teacher script will tend to be played out in the new time frame.

Meaningful educational change requires broad systemic change. Such change challenges not only the timing or the style of instruction, but it also questions underlying assumptions teachers make about teaching, learning, learners, and communities. Hiebart and Stigler (1999) describe systemic change as wholesale change in the culture of education. Other writers, (e.g., Banks, 1991; McIntosh, 1990; Sleeter and Grant, 1994) insist that the scope of educational change must go beyond that to include efforts to modify the broader culture of which the school culture is a part.

Whatever view we subscribe to, it is evident that sweeping educational change is not easily accomplished. Nor can it be compressed into short periods of time. Change can realistically only be achieved in a step-wise fashion and with earnest dedicated effort. The diversity plan that follows gives greater emphasis to the first of three implementation phases designed to occur over a minimum of five and perhaps many more years. Emphasis on phases two and three will evolve from our efforts to accomplish the first.


Reviewing progress toward the plan we devised in 2000, we find that the goals we set for ourselves in that year have served us well. Implementation of the plan encouraged our re-organization, restatement, and revision of some of its elements. Annual reports of our progress incorporated into this annotated version reveal those changes. During the past five years, however, our motivation to complete this plan and move forward has been unwavering. Our essential wishes and commitments remain unchanged.

I. Implementation of Phase One is the most substantive of the three implementation phases that form our diversity plan. Six goals contribute to this phase.

Goal 1. Give a diversity focus to the earliest experiences that candidates have in our curriculum.

The Education Department committed itself to the concept of a “foundations block” before the development of this plan. Discussions in 2000 focused on the configuration of this “block” of courses and experiences and logistical problems associated with implementation.  A pilot foundations block is planned for Fall, 2001.

Goal 2. Address some current diversity shortcomings related to clinical experiences with diverse learners.

The Education Department has spent the last year looking for clinical sites that would offer our candidates exposure to a diverse student population. Implementation of the clinical options approach begins fall, 2000; the urban minority clinical experience will be piloted fall, 2001.

Activities leading toward attainment of Goals 1 and 2 of Phase One were pursued simultaneously as our plan unfolded. Beginning with the fall 2002 semester and continuing through the spring 2004 semester, we worked toward both goals in two ways.

1. In their first year of collegiate study, students seeking acceptance as candidates for preparation as teachers enrolled in Education 105, “Exceptional Children” (2 credits), Education 107, “Introduction to Teaching and Learning” (2 credits), and Education 108 “Practicum” (1 credit).  Added to these existing first year courses, the 108 Practicum had two requirements. The first was a service learning experience in which these first year potential candidates mentored one or more at-risk students for a minimum of 30 hours. Priority was given to those seeking secondary/K-12 licensure for placements with at-risk students. The second requirement was that potential candidates shadow a teacher (as a “teacher aide”) for a full school week. This second requirement was satisfied at some time during the academic year in which the candidate was enrolled in the above two courses and practicum. Candidates might have completed this requirement during the January interim (first week in January), during spring break, during May term, or even during the summer of that academic year.

2. We created the Sophomore Elementary Education Candidate Block of 18 credits that included Education 150, “Fundamentals of Art” (2 credits), Education 315, “Art Methods” (2 credits), Education 215 “Literature for Children and Adolescents”(4 credits), Education 200, “The Developing Person” (4 credits), Education 205, “Introduction to Diversity” (2 credits) and Education 310, “Educational Psychology” (4 credits). This block of courses and experiences, completed by all second year prospective elementary candidates, allowed us to introduce our students through academic study to the range of differences they are likely to encounter and accommodate in schools.

This approach has made it possible for us to flexibly schedule block classes so that candidates spend one full week (five instructional days) in very diverse urban classroom settings where prospective candidates serve as teacher aides, tutoring small groups or teaching a class under the supervision of its instructor. We also build in opportunities for debriefing and reflection on the clinical experience. As a significant element in our diversity plan, candidates are carefully prepared to take full advantage of this residential “urban plunge.” We formally review candidates’ experiences in “Introduction to Diversity” to refine the focus and effects of this experience.

While our assessment of these two goals revealed success, we sought other configurations that might be more productive, especially for prospective secondary candidates. Revisions implemented with the fall 2004 semester included a new four credit course, “First Year Experience” (Education 111). This course combined some facets of “Introduction to Diversity” and “Introduction to Teaching and Learning.”

The “Practicum” at the core of Education 108 was introduced into Education111 as its required field service component. All secondary / K-12 candidates enrolled in this new course were placed with local at-risk populations for the service learning/mentoring component of the Education 111 practicum. While we also sought to place our elementary candidates with at-risk populations for this practicum, our secondary candidates enjoyed priority placement because their disciplinary course requirements made it impossible for us to enroll them in “diversity block” with an “urban plunge” Education 111 now provides the academic portion of “Introduction to Diversity” to our secondary/K-12 candidates, an outcome that was not possible in our previous curricular structure without adding to their credit load.

We are also making every effort to identify diverse urban classroom options for the “teacher shadowing” portion of this practicum for the secondary/K-12 candidates. Again, as elementary candidates have that opportunity in their sophomore block, our secondary/K-12 candidates receive priority placement in diverse settings. Comparison of the program we launched in 2001 with this second iteration implemented during fall 2004 semester finds a wider range of field experiences enjoyed by more of all of our elementary and a growing number of our secondary candidates.

Goal 3. Identify a process for increasing the ratio of minority faculty, staff and students in the Education Department.

This is an on-going effort. The Education Department is examining new ways to approach this challenge.

Activities leading us toward Goal 3 with respect to increasing education faculty of color, had not, by the close of 2003, help us achieve this goal. During spring semester of 2003, the department had two fixed term positions to fill. Our department tried to reach potential candidates for these positions by describing the positions in a wider range of publications likely read by potential minority candidates. Few such candidates responded. Of those who did, none was the best choice for either of the positions

During the spring of 2005, the Diversity Committee reviewed our past efforts and enhanced the process we will use to invite candidates of color to apply for positions as they arise in the future. This is an appropriate effort as several of our colleagues may be retiring in the next five to seven years. With multiple opportunities to invite candidates of color to apply for department positions, a refinement of our search process may lead to greater success.

With respect to diverse teacher education candidates, on November 20, 2003, the Teacher Education Council (TEC) met with representatives from the Admissions Departments of both colleges to begin a conversation about how we might collaboratively attract students of color to our department’s programs. The meeting was productive. The Diversity Committee, as a follow-up, initiated the following activities:

  • We scheduled a meeting with Seth Snyder (Admissions Diversity Coordinator) to discuss the possibility of bringing to our campuses high school students with the academic potential to succeed at our colleges from De LaSalle and Henry High Schools. Those students would be invited to campus for a weekend or a weekday/overnight visit. Our guests would attend Education classes, be escorted by Education Club students, and participate in either sports or fine arts events. As Mr. Snyder was ill on the day of our scheduled meeting, and efforts to reschedule our meeting were not successful, we did not move further with this proposal. We planned to continue our planning for such an event that might occur either in summer 2004 or fall 2004.
  • We explored the possibility of obtaining full scholarships for minority students who have an interest in Education. The Education Department may consider using the La Crosse (University of Wisconsin) Model that seems to have been successful with Hmong candidates. Money to provide such scholarships was available.
  • During the fall 2004 semester the Education Department (TEC), lead by the Department’s Diversity Committee, continued conversations with members of the Admissions Office. The general purpose of these meetings was to again explore ways that the Education Department might collaborate with Admissions to make Education Department programs more attractive to prospective students and to be more actively involved in helping prepare more teachers of color for tomorrow’s classrooms. A number of fruitful ideas were generated in these joint meetings. During spring 2005 semester Admissions and the Education Department jointly piloted a program to host sophomores and juniors from our diverse partner schools. The spring visit entailed meetings with Admissions staff, campus tours, attendance at one Education Department class, and lunch with education candidates. If this experience is successful, the campus visitation day will be expanded to include greater numbers of guests.
  • During fall of 2004 students from local middle schools were invited to participate in mentoring younger children of color under the guidance and tutelage of Education candidates. Efforts will also be made during academic year 2005-2006 to write grants or otherwise obtain private monies to fund scholarships that might enhance the likelihood that students of color would consider CSB/SJU Education Department’s licensure programs.

Goal 4. Ensure that teacher candidates have exposure to models of pluralistic thinking throughout the curriculum.

This effort is already strong in many parts of our teacher preparation program. The Education Department simply needs to insure that the effort is intentionally incorporated in all major aspects of programs.

Activities leading toward Goal 4 included our early analysis of course content. During the spring of 2000 and again in the fall of 2003, Education Department faculty described each course they taught to reveal the kinds of diversity initiatives they took in their courses. Faculty were asked to respond by describing initiatives in six categories: books and media, specific diversity content, theories of multicultural education/pluralistic thinking, adapted pedagogies, and experiences/assignments. A comparison of the two data sets revealed that with increased time and expectations, Education department faculty were addressing diversity in noticeably more intentional and comprehensive ways.

Theories of multicultural education/pluralistic thinking are addressed in several courses. Ruby Payne, James Banks, and Gender Equity theorists, for example, were introduced in Education 107, Introduction to Teaching and Learning. These theories were revisited in Education 205 (Introduction to Diversity), as well as in Education 310 (Educational Psychology), and Education 390 (Human Relations). In other courses, students were expected to apply their understandings of those theories, as in Human Relations (Education 390).

Finally, student teachers were expected to demonstrate their pluralistic thinking about the population of students they are serving in their planning, implementation, and assessment. It is quite clear from the data that theories of multicultural education are treated in a spiraling manner throughout the program. The full report is found in A Brief Report on Diversity Course Initiatives prepared in the spring of 2004.

Curricular changes since the spring 2004 survey encouraged a third, briefer survey during the spring semester of 2005. This survey assessed where and how thoroughly theories of pluralistic thinking were addressed throughout the curriculum. While analysis of its findings is not yet complete, preliminary review of faculty responses confirms that our new courses continue to offer a strong focus on a range of multicultural pluralism.

Goal 5. Develop faculty knowledge base about minorities.

This component of the plan began in 2003. It extends informal efforts by several individual faculty members to become more knowledgeable about ethnic and racial minorities.

Activities leading toward Goal 5 began in the fall of 2003 and continue to the present. Faculty and staff increased their “personal knowledge base” for this goal by reading Beverly Tatum’s Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria and Ann Fadimin’s The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down. We have also organized workshops and invited presentations by area experts on Hmong culture, African-American students’ educational needs, Somali culture, English Language Learners’ needs, and experiences of immigrants of many nationalities in our schools who are victims of torture.

Many of these events have been financed by faculty development grants from our colleges. The spring 2004 workshop offered our faculty and teachers in our partner schools an opportunity to look more closely at how we might support the English Language Learners (ELL) in our classrooms. The Director of ELL programs for the Saint Paul schools, who had conducted our first ELL workshop two years earlier, brought her considerable personal and professional experience to share with us.

On behalf of the Education Department, the Diversity Committee received another internal college grant to fund a spring 2005 workshop on Native American culture, spirituality and educational issues. Local school partners were again invited to join with us as Winona LaDuke, a Native American activist living on a central Minnesota reservation and a past candidate for national office, shared her experiences in education and politics.

The Diversity Committee has proposed that the colleges continue this initiative with financial support for a spring 2006 consultation with Dr. Jose Bourget, whose support helped us begin this initiative. During this workshop Bourget would review our pursuit of a polycentric model of education as we prepare to renew our diversity plan. In the spring of 2007 we hope to learn more about the educational needs of children in Central Minnesota’s schools who are Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese.

Goal 6. Focus on a broad range of pedagogies that ensure that all learners have the opportunity to learn.

Education Department faculty conscientiously use and teach a broad array of pedagogies. The challenge remains for us to systematically relate that array to what we are learning about diverse learners.

Activities leading us to goal 6 were summarized in our brief report on Diversity Course Initiatives (Fall, 2003) which indicated that, “virtually all program course instructors report spending at least some, and sometimes a great deal, of class time on this.” The Department’s faculty is sensitive to the realization that intra-group differences in response to varied pedagogies may be greater than inter-group differences. We also are making a concerted effort in our courses to model a broad range of pedagogies suited to different learners.

II. Implementation of Phase Two of our diversity plan will specifically address methods courses as well as some upper division foundations courses.

The goal for this second phase is to examine our own teaching with respect to use of pluralistic models in the “second tier” of our licensure programs to ensure that there are no gaps in our attempts to deal with diversity issues. A tentative proposal to explore the possibility of a domestic study abroad semester falls within this goal.

Activities leading us toward this goal began in the fall of 2003 with a series of curricular revisions in the second tier of “methods courses” in our curriculum. Recently, the Education Department voted to replace Education 354 (“Middle Level Literacy and Pedagogy,”2 credits) and Education 357 (“Middle Level Learners,” 2 credits) with multiple sections of Education 358 (“Middle Level Learners and Pedagogy,” 4 credits) in each of four areas supporting middle level (grades 5-8) licensure (natural science, social science, language arts, mathematics). Each section of Education 358 will be taught by a subject-matter specialist. Our belief is that a 4 credit Education 358 will afford faculty greater opportunities to address the full range of pedagogies for diverse learners.

As we find ways to incorporate a stronger focus on teaching diverse learners in all our courses, these “middle level learner” courses will provide all our candidates with knowledge and skills that will enhance their instructional effectiveness with all students.

We are revising several courses to incorporate a stronger approach to teaching diverse learners in our preparation of a proposed licensure program for teachers of English as a second language. We anticipate submitting this program for review by Minnesota’s Board of Teaching in July of 2006.

While pursuit of a “domestic study abroad” remains an attractive option, we have tabled our efforts to establish a collaborative relationship with a college serving minority teacher candidates in hopes of developing a semester-long candidate exchange program. During the 2001-2002 academic year we proposed this concept to Xavier University’s Dean of Education. While the Dean expressed strong interest in our initial proposal, we have been unable to move our negotiations forward with Xavier. We will continue to explore this idea with other institutions who might have a mutual interest in providing diverse experiences for our candidates.

During spring semester of 2004, S. Ann Marie Biermaier, Chair of the Education Department, approached Brother Henry, St. David’s School (K-8, New Orleans, to explore student teaching opportunities for our students in his school. Although his offer falls short of what we originally thought of as a domestic study abroad experience, it may yet prove to be fruitful possibility to pursue.

During the summer of 2004, Del Brobst, Director of Secondary Student Teaching, explored international sites for candidates seeking student teaching opportunities in Europe. Having worked through another college’s program to arrange such experiences, we hope to establish a small scale effort that could provide the high level of supervision and curricular control that our candidates enjoy in Minnesota schools. Two high schools, one in Germany and a second in Austria, expressed willingness to mentor student teachers from our program. Mr. Brobst will be accepting applications for placements in those schools during the spring of 2005 for student teaching to take place during the following fall.

Finally, the curricular revisions that we have made in the first two tiers of our program may offer opportunities for improvements in the third tier of the program (Education 390, “Human Relations,” 4 credits; Education 359, “Issues in Education,” 2 credits, and student teaching). We have considered is to collect a bank of videotaped evidence that demonstrates how our candidates translate the theoretical knowledge they have acquired about diversity into classroom practice. This idea will be floated with the directors of elementary and secondary student teaching during spring semester of 2005, as the first candidates who will have experienced our new diversity-sensitive curriculum will be student teaching during that semester.

III. Implementation of Phase Three of our diversity plan will deal with the experiences that synthesize curricular learning, including our Core Curriculum Senior Seminar (Education 390, “Human Relations,” 4 credits), “Issues in Education” (Education 359, 2 credits), elementary and secondary level student teaching (Education 361, 362, 363; 16 credits), and any mentoring and assessment experiences the department provides for recent graduates of its programs. As we implement this third phase, we will also begin planning for a renewed diversity plan to guide our work as we approach the next decade.

The goal of this last phase is to monitor our efforts to ensure that the characteristics and needs of diverse learners are addressed in all the necessary places in our curriculum using reasonable methods that reflect our mission and conceptual framework.

Activities leading us toward this goal will include gathering and examining the data on the success of our planned diversity course initiatives. Early information seems to suggest that revisions guided by the first two phases may be moving us further toward what we once envisioned as a distant outcome. Individual faculty members have made substantial changes to their course requirements to ensure that diversity is addressed in every segment of the curriculum (foundations, methods, and capstone experiences). Our student teachers, for example, must now reveal how they have explicitly planned and integrated support for their learner’s diversity within the design and delivery of their instructional units as documented in their portfolios. Building on their experiences, we will explore how our graduates in their first years of practice respond to the challenge of teaching diverse learners.

Banks, James (1991). Teaching Strategies for Ethnic Studies. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. Academic Catalog: 1998-2000.

Hiebart, James and James Stigler (1999). The Teaching Gap. NY: Free Press.

McIntosh, Peggy (1990). Interactive Phases of Curricular and Personal Re-Vision with Regard to Race. Wellesley, MA: Center for Research on Women.

Sleeter, C. E., and C.A. Grant (1994). Making Choices for Multicultural Education: Five Approaches to Race, Class and Gender. NY: Merrill.

Smith, G. Pritchy (1998). Who shall have the moral courage to heal racism in America? Multicultural Education, pp. 4-10.