New Initative Focuses On Curiculum Diversity
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 02:09
A group of students launched the Cura Personalis Initiative this summer to push the university to emphasize diversity in its curriculum.
CPI stems from an initiative that President John J. DeGioia launched in 2009 in response to a series of bias-related incidents.
“We’re basically students who wanted to examine the progress of diversity of Georgetown, largely to respond to the president’s 2009 initiative on diversity,” Kevin Magana (COL ’14), co-chair of the initiative’s fundraising committee, said.
Magana said that giving students an understanding of diversity should be part of Georgetown’s mission to educate the whole person.
“At Georgetown I haven’t had the opportunity myself to engage in studies of my own culture, which is the broader Latino-American culture,” he said. “I believe Georgetown has a responsibility to educate the whole person.”
Brandon Anderson (COL ’14), co-chair for both CPI’s fundraising and research committees, agreed.
“Georgetown touts the significance of developing leaders for the 21st century,” Anderson said. “If our students do not understand the sensitivities of particular cultures, then Georgetown has failed to prepare to compete in the 21st century.”
Anderson said the initiative’s first goal is to increase the diversity of Georgetown’s curriculum.
“That means increasing the number of courses offered on diversity and also the depth to which this diversity is taught,” Anderson said, citing potential minors in Latin American and Asian American studies.
CPI’s leaders also hope to increase the diversity of the student body and university faculty.
“I think it’s really important that students engage in diversity or have conversations related to diversity,” said Esther Owolabi (COL ’15), a program assistant for the African American Studies Program at Georgetown and co-director of CPI’s research committee.
Owolabi hopes to expand CPI from its core group of fewer than 10 people.
“Now we’re going to focus more on the grassroots student organizing than on the administration,” Owolabi said. “We need it to be a big push rather than just a small group of students who want something.”
Though Owolabi said the university has granted verbal support to the initiative, she said it has not yet made any of the changes CPI members want to see.
“The administration says that they want to do a lot, but then they don’t do it. [It’s] a lot of talk and then no action on diversity issues,” Owolabi said. “A lot of them are interested in the work CPI does, but then they don’t give us the resources to implement the changes we want to see.”
CPI has already succeeded at working with the administration in some areas.
“This semester we’re aiming to carry out a survey that measures student perceptions and opinions of diversity at Georgetown,” Magana said.
Over the summer, CPI worked with Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Rosemary Kilkenny, Acting Executive Director of the Office of Assessment and Decision Support Ardoth Hassler and Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Pedagogical Practice at the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship John Rakestraw.
CPI has also reached out to faculty and alumni, some of whom were involved in the initiative’s predecessor organization, the Student Commission for Unity, which previously sought to facilitate diversity and dialogue within the Georgetown community. The commission, which started as a Georgetown University Student Association committee and eventually broke off in 2009, disbanded in 2012 after its senior leadership graduated.