Professors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed new resources to help teach current graduate students and future faculty how to effectively teach to a diverse student body.
At a presentation during the recently held annual meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools, Dr. Robert D. Mathieu, a professor of astronomy at UW-Madison and director of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, Learning Diversity Institute, said it was important to teach students how to be good researchers and teachers.
“We have to create a future faculty that sees diversity in the classroom as an opportunity rather than a challenge,” Mathieu said.
Dr. Judith N. Burstyn, a chemistry professor at UW-Madison, said most students are ignorant of their own biases. Teaching tools such as a faculty training manual, a book of case studies or a self-guided workshop are some ways the center’s diversity team attempts to provide solutions, she said.
In one workshop, Dr. Sherrill Sellers, an assistant professor at UW-Madison’s School of Social Work, asked participants — consisting of graduate program administrators — to look at a case study that involved a Hispanic administrator alienating a Black woman graduate student after she expressed isolation and planned to drop out of her program.
“People make assumptions all the time,” Sellers said. “The workshops help our future teachers to think about the roles they’re playing.”
CIRTL, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, instructs graduate students, postdoctoral students and new faculty in a range of integrated research and teaching techniques. The center features a series of workshops and courses, including the Delta Program, and fosters a community for future STEM and social science faculty. The CIRTL Network consists of Howard University, Texas A&M University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Washington, the University of Colorado, Pennsylvania State University and Michigan State University.
As one graduate intern of the Delta Program said: “Diversity is not just about being from different ethnic backgrounds. Everyone is different and you have to be cognizant of what you’re saying and to whom.”
For more information, visit www.cirtl.net/diversityresources
— By Shilpa Banerji
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