Fall 1997 - Volume I, Issue 2
In 1987, Lesley College announced in its newly adopted
mission statement that "The goal of a Lesley College education is to empower
students with the knowledge, skills, and practical experience they need to
succeed as catalysts and leaders in their professions, their own lives, and the
world in which they live." By 1992, it became apparent that the professions,
their lives, and the world in which students live were presenting diversity
challenges of such significance that, to prepare graduates adequately, the
college needed to address the issues even more actively. With the support of the
Trustees, President Margaret McKenna obtained a grant from a generous Lesley
alumna and established The Lesley College Diversity Initiative to prepare
students and particularly teachers to work collaboratively and productively in a
In order to effectively reach students, faculty and
staff have worked inclusively to radically transform the culture of the college
to that of a multicultural learning organization. The journey has been
challenging, rewarding, and renewing. At the same time, it has been a struggle -
a struggle in the recognition that the ideals of social justice may never be
entirely achieved, where moments of success have been cherished long enough to
provide the energy to reach for all that has not been achieved. This article
traces the path of institutional change and identifies important learnings which
have implications for higher education and other organizations that seek to
create learning environments that better prepare our citizens to work and live
productively and peacefully in a multicultural society.
founded in 1909 and with current enrollments of more than 6000 students,
prepares women and men for professional careers in education, human services,
management, and the arts. A distinctive and fundamental aspect of education at
Lesley College is the conviction that people matter, and that the professionals
who respond to their needs provide a unique service to society.
President McKenna began her career as a civil
rights lawyer, influenced by the Civil Rights Movement, believing that race was
America's most critical issue. After several career moves in government and
education, one of her primary motivations in assuming the presidency of Lesley
College was the opportunity to create an institution that would attract and
retain students, faculty, and staff from all of America's populations. Early in
her presidency, she assumed that with supporting values, intentions and words,
the college community would engage in transformation toward the desired goal.
There were committed change agents sponsoring multicultural projects throughout
the college, but progress, as with most institutions, was slow. Lesley remained
a primarily white institution, and she decided that bolder leadership was
needed. She created in 1990 the position of Special Assistant to the President
for Affirmative Action. In 1992, she announced to deans and search committees
the goal that all fifteen open faculty positions were to be filled with people
of color as a remedy for historical discrimination. To attract students of color
and dramatically alter the applicant pool, Lesley announced that any student of
color from Boston or Cambridge accepted to Lesley's Women's College would be
guaranteed tuition and funds for book expense. In three years, the number of
students of color increased from 7% to 19%. Costs prohibited continued aid at
that level, but by then, Lesley was a different place.
With progress in
bringing in new populations, the major task of transforming Lesley as an
institution remained. The president contended that the mission of the college
could not be realized without creating a truly multicultural environment. With a
three year grant of $225,000, the president charged the Special Assistant to the
President for Affirmative Action and Diversity to coordinate and promote strong
campus wide support for the Lesley College Diversity Initiative. The donors
particularly emphasized their interest in preparing teachers to be effective
with diverse populations in classrooms. In addressing that priority through
systemic change, Lesley simultaneously changed the experience of graduates in
all areas including management, human services, and the arts.
community was invited to a kick-off breakfast meeting that announced plans, and
a group of twenty - including faculty, students, and staff - was invited to
serve on the Diversity Initiative Executive Committee. Diverse along all
dimensions including level, function, school, race, gender, religion, sexual
orientation, and others, The Executive Committee established committees to carry
out its work: Recruitment and Retention, Curriculum and Instruction,
Institutional Assessment and Evaluation, Quality of Life, Training and
Development, and Student Issues. The chairs of the committees with the Executive
Committee formed the Diversity Initiative Steering Committee. The entire
structure created a balance between broad inclusion and small groups that could
get the work done. Leadership at all levels of the college was then in place.
Inclusion was one of the most powerful and acknowledged elements from
the beginning. Faculty, staff, senior administrators, and students worked
together to plan and implement a broad spectrum of activities, programs, and
initiatives that would address diversity issues. But the process of developing a
conceptual model for change was not an intuitive priority of the Executive
Committee in the beginning. The group struggled with process, purpose,
confidence, and trust. Disciplines of education, management, organizational
development, and the arts introduced varying approaches. At a Fall retreat, the
Executive Committee brainstormed goals, and within a few months, there were
expressed and restless requests for the clarity of a vision statement and
outcomes. A volunteer sub-group met and extracted the substance of the
brainstorm materials and drafted proposals for group critique. After four or
five rounds, the Executive Committee unanimously approved the Vision and Desired
Outcomes and recommended adoption to the president. She responded favorably and
communicated the document to the college community. The statement is included in
this article because of its centrality to all that followed. It has survived the
test of time and been useful in both spawning activity and pointing to
deficiencies and gaps.
At the heart of the Lesley College Diversity Initiative
is the goal to create a campus living and learning environment to prepare Lesley
students to become positive forces for diversity within their communities.
Toward this goal, the Lesley College community will achieve increased diversity,
value cultural contributions of all its members, strive to enhance
multiculturalism in the professions, and serve as a model pluralistic community.
Lesley College graduates will be
culturally aware, engage in practice with attention to diversity and take active
leadership in their professions to contribute positively to a more equitable and
Lesley College's curriculum and
pedagogy will incorporate knowledge of and perspectives of diverse groups within
The Lesley College academic community will
contribute to advancing multiculturalism in academic fields and professions with
continual efforts to develop and disseminate innovative conceptual work and
research to affect theory and practice.
As a learning
community committed to issues of diversity, all members will engage in on-going
educational activities to assure knowledge of and sensitivity to oppressed
individuals and groups.
Lesley College will seek,
recruit, and work to retain persons from traditionally underrepresented groups
in higher education to insure wide diversity in all levels of the college
Members of the Lesley College community
will address issues of power, privilege and oppression as they affect self,
others, groups, and the institution.
policies and procedures will be equitable for all members of the community.
Lesley College will make continued efforts to secure
and allocate resources to support diversity.
College will project its commitment to diversity through all public relations
materials, academic documentation, and activities of its members in the larger
The outcomes became immediately operational as the
basis for committee charges, clearly aligning committee work with the vision and
The vision and outcomes reflect conceptual elements from the
literature which members of the Diversity Initiative Executive Committee brought
from their disciplines, scholarship, teaching and organizational experience. A
range of research findings, some of which have provided the basis for more
recent publications, particularly influenced the
With a goal that the college reflect communities in which
graduates will work and live, Lesley made recruitment and retention of faculty,
staff, administrators and students of color a priority. People of color now
comprise: 18% of Lesley employees compared to 8% in 1989; 18% of faculty
compared to 7% in 1989 and 16% of administrators compared to 4% in 1989. Senior
administrators at Lesley are now a diverse group. Students of color in the
undergraduate Women's College increased from 7% to 17% from 1987 to 1996
although college-wide, only 8% of students are people of color. The School of
Education has established a priority of developing a master recruitment and
retention plan to attract a more diverse student body in 1998.
the knowing of self is as challenging for institutions as individuals, the
Diversity Initiative established an Institutional Assessment and Evaluation
Committee. Lesley's Office of Institutional Research tracked historical
institutional data, primarily quantitative in nature. But the committee sought
to probe more deeply and broadly, employing also qualitative techniques. In
1995, at the recommendation of the committee and the Diversity Initiative
Executive Committee, the college contracted with Ibis Consulting Group to
conduct a Culture Audit to capture the diversity issues of the Lesley community,
programs, environment, and policies. There is significant faculty expertise in
evaluation at Lesley, but the compelling argument for an outside consultant was
the objective collection of sensitive and confidential information. Ibis
employed a multi-faceted approach including a survey, focus groups, individual
interviews, observations, and a review of college documents. The results of the
Audit were informative and useful in identifying both positive and negative
elements. Positive elements included description of Lesley as welcoming,
friendly, and supportive although rankings of people of color were consistently
lower than others'. Twenty-three issues were identified as important to address,
with priority to: creating a shared vision as a multicultural institution,
increasing access to buildings for the disabled, addressing concerns of support
staff and contract workers, and providing training on racism. The Audit was
energizing and informing, and the college continues to respond to issues raised.
One adult student commented, "I took part in several focus groups because of my
many roles. It was fascinating to see people with a common identity respond to
the questions. And I am hopeful that the college will get better as a result of
On-going assessment and evaluation are necessary to
inform change efforts and recognize progress. At Lesley, assessment and
evaluation primarily occur at the level of schools, departments, programs, and
courses so data and results are generally not aggregated for the entire college.
Field supervisors and program directors note positive changes in, student
papers, projects and reflective journals regarding student awareness and
knowledge of diversity. Faculty members Merrifield and Boris-Schachter
researched processes used by student teachers in creating lesson plans. They
compared responses of undergraduate women students interviewed in 1993 and 1994,
noting that students in the 1994 sample criticized a selected fifth grade social
studies text chapter on immigration for lacking a fully developed multicultural
perspective whereas not a single student in the earlier group made such an
observation. They attribute the multicultural awareness in the second set of
interviews in 1994 to the Diversity Initiative vision, agenda and its influence
on course content and faculty world views. In a 1993 School of Management
program evaluation, students rated the required bachelor's level diversity
course as the second most valued. In hundreds of course evaluations, the new
learning most reported relates to recognition of personal prejudices and their
impact on management practice. Preliminary interviews and anecdotal evidence are
encouraging. "When I came to Lesley, there were only 3 people of color. Now I
feel my community is reflected here and it makes a huge difference in my
attitude toward work. An aspiring teacher reports that "We have had some
dynamic, heated, rockin' conversations. I never knew there could be as many
points of view as we discovered in discussing the Holocaust. And another
reports, "When I am a classroom teacher and have difficult kids to work with, I
will learn about their culture, family and ethnic groups by reading and asking
questions. I used to think that some kids and groups were unreachable."
Training and Development have provided an important educational foundation
for change. The Training and Development Committee implemented a multiple year,
college-wide strategy for providing opportunities and resources for dialogue,
knowledge building and organizational change. Workshops offered included:
Claiming our Cultural Identity, Exploring Differences in the Workplace, and
Power and Conflict in the Multicultural Workplace. Other on-going projects
launched were the Diversity Encounters Series with faculty and staff presenting
and initiating dialogue on diversity topics, and the Racism Education Project
for students, faculty and staff. The Home Groups project which involved the
creation of a network of groups for ongoing discussion, assessment, problem
solving and strategic planning in each organizational unit of the college served
as a vehicle for system-wide change. Participation in training is voluntary and
groups are diverse along many dimensions including level, function, and school.
More than three hundred Lesley community members have participated in fifteen
workshops in two years. Senior staff have engaged in diversity training and now
have diversity on the agenda for all meetings, encouraging leaders to bring
issues for discussion and resolution.
The Diversity Initiative urged
faculty development by supporting summer workshops in curriculum revision.
Participating faculty worked with multicultural curriculum consultants to revise
more than eighty courses and create fifty new courses, aligning curriculum with
the vision and outcomes of the Initiative. Resulting new courses include, for
example: Past and Present Realities of Racism, International Perspectives on
Health and Nutrition, and Native American Experience. The enthusiastic faculty
commitment to transforming the curriculum provides testimony to the congruence
of the values of Lesley faculty, the Mission Statement of the college, and the
Vision and Outcomes of the Diversity Initiative.
Project was an exemplary three year faculty development project, created and led
by faculty, to facilitate: faculty awareness of cultural identity, power and
privilege; infusion of multicultural perspectives into courses; and development
of programs and policies to prepare graduates to engage effectively with both
mainstream and socially marginalized populations. Approximately forty faculty
participated, motivated primarily by concerns of social justice and limitations
of the knowledge and practice in their fields of study. The first year focused
on defining cultural identity through an exploration of the ways in which
cultural roots combine with the social-political context to shape world views
and professional thinking and practice. Monthly trainings emphasized the primary
strands of cultural identity and their impact on professional practice and
pedagogy. Readings stimulated thinking about topics from differing perspectives.
The second year focused on Curriculum Transformation. Faculty identified
courses, preferably required, to revise and worked in small peer groups to
discuss course objectives, content, and resources. They critiqued theory and
practice and introduced readings, case studies, and other pedagogical strategies
to reflect diversity in existing courses. At the end of the year, forty
participants submitted syllabi for peer review and received feedback. The third
year focused on multicultural competencies to be addressed and used in program
evaluation. The project has been a source of significant learning at Lesley,
with results presented at several national conferences. One faculty member
commented about curriculum revision, "I have generally felt that the arguments
about multicultural issues in curriculum have been exaggerated, but as I got
into the specifics of my course and the readings in discussion with my
colleagues, some of the exclusion issues became clear for the first time, and I
was able to make changes that I felt good about."
multiculturalism and encourage dissemination of innovative conceptual work and
research, Lesley launched in 1997 The Journal of Pedagogy, Pluralism, and
Practice, a biannual, web-based publication. Additionally, the college sponsored
a Writing Retreat in March, 1997 where writers from faculty and staff with
expertise in diversity, engaged in small groups for peer review and critique of
written drafts in a relaxed off-campus rural setting.
potential isolation of adjunct faculty and the importance of their
contributions, the college supported The Adjunct Faculty Project in 1995 to
provide cross-college leadership to assist the four schools in enabling adjunct
faculty members to address the Vision and Desired outcomes of the Diversity
Initiative. Several recommendations from the project are incorporated in the
1996-1997 goals of the Diversity Initiative.
In October, 1996, Lesley sponsored Diversity Day, an
educational and celebratory extravaganza to acknowledge what the college has
become and further enlighten the community. Fourteen hundred participants from
all segments of the college attended more than sixty workshops and events from
morning to late evening on topics such as: Caribbean Story Time, "Out" in the
Classroom: A Faculty Perspective, and Physical, Learning, Psychological,
Emotional, and Other Disabilities: Hidden and Obvious. Cornel West's keynote
address was thought provoking and provided a basis for further discussion and
debate during Faculty Development Day in January. Small groups of faculty
explored from the speech, topics of democracy and multiculturalism, market
culture and influences on nurturing and caring, and faith, hope and renewal.
Coordination and staff investment in the success of the event were
extraordinary. Evaluations surfaced such comments as "organizational
masterpiece, great showcase of Lesley talent, and exceptional experience that
separates Lesley from the others". One faculty member of color commented, "The
day was amazing. I would not have believed that Lesley was capable of this. The
diversity and gifts in our community have never been so apparent to me before."
In December, 1995, Lesley College was honored with a highly coveted Ray
Frost Award from the Association of Affirmative Action Professionals. The
citation lauded the College for "setting high standards and challenging the
system in pursuit of affirmative action, equal opportunity and social justice."
Lesley was the first institution of higher learning to receive the award.
The concept of Institutionalizing Change was an important but elusive element
in the consciousness of the Diversity Initiative Steering Committee. Going out
of business represents best success for vehicles of change, but administrative
processes established for a particular purpose seek a life of their own. As the
Steering Committee discussed actions and change, there was one participating
senior administrator whose predictable cant, "There is an office in the college
responsibility for that." brought the committee back on course. In 1997, the
college persists in its efforts, as the following few examples indicate:
funding always influence what is possible. Lesley committed resources to this
initiative by creating a Special Assistant to the President for Affirmative
Action and Diversity position, obtaining grant funds, requesting that all
offices and programs cooperate with the Diversity Initiative, providing work
time opportunities for staff to participate and faculty release time for some
faculty leadership roles. Basically, these provisions communicate the high
priority of diversity work in the college at all levels and in all
The Diversity Initiative has been a rich and challenging
learning experience for the Lesley community. In reflecting on three years of
institutional change efforts, the Lesley Diversity Initiative Executive
Committee urges institutions engaging in diversity-related change to consider
Lesley has made major strides toward commitments of
the diversity vision statement in areas of: increasing diversity among faculty,
students and staff at all levels; valuing contributions of all members; and
enhancing multiculturalism in the professions. Also the college commits to
becoming a living and learning environment to prepare Lesley students to become
positive forces for diversity in their communities. The real tests are the
extent to which: graduates are positive forces for change in their communities,
the college community as a model pluralistic community inspires the
transformation of world views, and community members comprehend the challenges
of democracy and respond positively. Answers to these questions require dialogue
and assessment with groups that have been disadvantaged and underserved as well
as with dominant groups who must examine their privilege and choose to change.
The American experience is unique in human history and the development of
democracy depends on learning by institutions and individuals. Lesley students
who increase their knowledge, skills and practical experience to succeed as
social change agents enlarge the circle of hope.
Allport, G. W. (1988). Nature of prejudice. New York: Addison-Wesley
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Arrendondo, P. (1996). Successful diversity
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Delpit, L. (1995). Other people's children: Cultural
conflict in the classroom. New York: The New Press.
Esty, K., &
Griffin, R., & Hirsch, M.S. (1995). Workplace diversity: A manager's guide
to solving problems and turning diversity into a competitive advantage.
Holbrook, MA: Adams Publishing.
Hayles, R., & Russell, A. (1997). The
diversity directive: Why some initiatives fail and what to do about it. Chicago:
Irwin Professional Publishing.
Johnston, W., & Packer, A. (1987).
Workforce 2000: Work and workers for the 21st century. Indianapolis, Indiana:
Kanter, R. (1983). The change masters: Innovation &
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Loden, M., & Rosener, J. (1991). Workforce diversity: Managing employee
diversity as a vital resource. Homewood, Illinois: Business One Irwin.
Merrifield, S., & Boris-Schachter, S. (1996). A College's diversity
initiative finds its way into Student teachers' lesson plans. Journal of
Pedagogy, Pluralism, and Practice, Retrieved May 15, 1997 from the World Wide
Nieto, S. (1996). Affirming diversity:
The sociopolitical context of multicultural education. White Plains, NY: Longman
Smith, P.G. (1996, November). Preconference institute on
knowledge bases for cultural diversity in teacher education. St. Paul, MN: Fifth
Annual Conference of the National Association for Multicultural Education.
Thomas, R. (1991). Beyond race and gender: Unleashing the power of your total
work force by managing diversity. New York: American Management Association. Return to the Journal of Pedagogy,
Pluralism and Practice Main Page
Journal of Pedagogy, Pluralism and Practice Main Page
Fall 1997 Issue Main Page
Preface - A Dedication to Paulo Freire
Solange Lira and Bill Stokes - Toward Pedagogies of Freedom
Maria de Lourdes B. Serpa and Caetano Valadão Serpa - Freire Pedagogia da Autonomia Book Review
Sandras Barnes - Connecting Theory to Professional Growth and Pedagogical Practices in a Multicultural Setting
Peggy McIntosh and Emily Style - The National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum
Patricia L. Jerabek - Creating A Multicultural Learning Environment at Lesley College
Walter E. Stone, Jr - Making the Shifts
Barry Sugarman - Learning,Working, Managing, Sharing
Sebastian Lockwood - Density of Coincidence
The Editorial Board
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Explore the full content catalog of Lesley's Journal of Pedagogy, Pluralism and Practice, featuring articles by leading faculty and practitioners in education, the social sciences, humanities, and the arts, by returning to the Journal's Main Page.