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Office of Student Diversity at The Medical University of South Carolina

THE MILLENNIAL CHALLENGE


SCHOLARS for EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE and DIVERSITY, Inc.

Emily L. Moore, Ed.D., President
scholars.moore@earthlink.net

J. Herman Blake, Ph.D.
scholars2blake@earthlink.net

July 2005

CONTENTS

Introduction     

The Millennial Challenge         

An Office of Student Diversity  

Appendix A:  Working Paper  

Introduction

From the matriculation of its first African American students in 1965 that Medical University of South Carolina has continued a dedication to diversity at every level.  The commitment to equity and inclusion has developed in measured and systematic ways over the past 4 decades.  The first Office of Minority Affairs was established in 1976 as a principal response to the increased complexity of diversity issues.  As this office assumed increasingly important roles it went through challenges in organization, leadership and mission.

As a result of university-wide efforts African American students comprised 9.4 percent of MUSC enrollment in 2003, an achievement augmented by a growing number of Latinos and other underrepresented minorities.  In spite of successes, the administration seeks to be more effective in meeting the needs of students from historically bypassed and underserved communities.

The current effort to improve student diversity at MUSC began in 2004 when Scholars for Educational Excellence and Diversity (Scholars) was invited by President Raymond Greenberg to review the campus office of diversity and advise him on key issues.  That analysis and report, “Student Diversity in the Health Professions in the State of South Carolina” was submitted in August 2004.  Consequently, Dr. Valerie West, Associate Provost for Education and Student Life invited Scholars to return and address additional issues.  The scope of the present assignment can be found in Appendix C.

The Millennial Challenge

Writing at the dawn of the 20th Century the scholar W.E.B. Dubois (1903) meditated on its meaning for Americans.  Predicting the new century would bring significant challenges of race to the world as well as to America he wrote: “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line–the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea.”

In the course of the 20th Century, America experienced significant changes–many of them reflecting the clairvoyance of DuBois.  As MUSC faces the 21st Century–and moves toward its own bicentennial–the hope DuBois expressed at the end of his treatise becomes a guiding force toward meeting the millennial challenge.  He wrote:

Through all the sorrow of the Sorrow Songs there breathes a hope–a faith in the ultimate justice of things.  The minor cadences of despair change often to triumph and calm confidence.  Sometimes it is faith in life, sometimes in death, sometimes assurances of boundless justice in some fair world beyond.  But whichever it is, the meaning is always clear:  that sometime somewhere, men will judge men by their souls and not by their skins.

The current movement toward an Office of Student Diversity and beyond to broader issues reflects the commitment of the leadership at MUSC to continue the transformation of the cadences of despair to those of triumph and calm confidence.

Toward an Office of Student Diversity at MUSC

In developing our perspectives on an Office of Student Diversity the principal author of this report–J. Herman Blake–engaged in an extensive dialogue with key stakeholders at MUSC.  These included a wide range of students, individually and collectively.  In addition I met with administrative staff, particularly in the Division of Education and Student Life.  Individual meetings were held with every college Dean as well as group meetings with a number of advisory councils and administrative committees.  Finally, I met individually with a number of faculty members–sometimes at their request–and collectively with faculty at a Town Hall dedicated to a discussion of an office of student diversity, as well as with the Faculty Senate.  In addition I reviewed a generous range of documents from the Colleges and other administrative units.  These activities are discussed in detail in a narrative found in Appendix B.

Seven major propositions emerged and were generally endorsed by MUSC students in an open forum.

1. There is strong support for a free-standing Office of Student Diversity within the Division of Education and Student Life.

2. The Office of Student Diversity should work closely with other units in the Division of Education and Student Life as well as all student organizations to promote greater interaction and cooperation among students from diverse racial and ethnic groups as well as students of different nationalities.

3. The Office of Student Diversity should be centrally located to permit easy and frequent access for students.

4. The Office of Student Diversity should provide a friendly and welcoming environment for all students at MUSC.

5. The Office of Student Diversity should be involved in a full range of campus activities/programs in support of student life at MUSC.

6. The Office of Student Diversity should not be limited to service to African American and Latino students.

7. The Office of Student Diversity should not be the only campus unit with responsibility to diversify student life at MUSC.  All student life and college offices should take responsibility for diversifying their programming and services.

Guiding Perspectives for an Office of Student Diversity

The Office of Student Diversity should be guided by a vision, values and mission congruent with the strategic plan of MUSC.  In addition these perspectives should take into account the communities and people MUSC graduates will ultimately serve in South Carolina and the United States.

Office of Student Diversity:  VISION

An inclusive environment that honors and respects the unique cultures of each group and the special qualities of each individual while promoting intellectual excellence and academic achievement.

Office of Student Diversity:  VALUES

1. Respect for racial and cultural diversity.
2. Diversity as a process that is expansive and inclusive.
3. Cooperation and mutual support more than competition.
4. Interdisciplinary education and academic practices.
5. Access to effective health care.
6. Health care access to underserved populations.
7. Students with personal qualities:
a. Caring
b. Compassion
c. Creativity
d. Ethical
e. Proficient

Office of Student Diversity:  MISSION

The mission of the Office of Student Diversity at the Medical University of South Carolina is to promote high expectations for academic excellence in health care education and the biomedical sciences for students from all social groups without regard for race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, religious belief or sexual orientation.

The Office of Student Diversity focuses primarily on students from the underserved and underrepresented minority communities in South Carolina, particularly American Indians and African Americans who have been historically bypassed.  This focus also extends equally to students from the growing South Carolina populations of Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders.

Toward an Office of Student Diversity –A Working Paper

In this working paper we outline an approach to establishing an Office of Student diversity in particular, as well as strategies to strengthen student life and diversity throughout MUSC.  While the strategies are rooted in the division of Education and Student Life, equally important and complementary efforts must take place in the individual colleges.  For analytical purposes the strategies are discussed as three separate but at-times simultaneous, overlapping and complementary
phases:

Phase 1:  Establish an Office of Student Diversity and strengthen diversity efforts within all administrative units in the Division of Education and Student Life (August 2005-February 2006).

Phase 2:  Systematically strengthen the complementary links between the Division of Education and Student Life and The Colleges at MUSC (March 2006 and on-going).

Phase 3:  The Division of Education and Student Life should supplement College and University programs of community outreach.  The Education and Student Life efforts should systematically focus on colleges and universities in South Carolina (August 2006 and on-going).

We realize many programs that would be subsumed under Phases 2 and 3 are currently underway and must continue.  However to maximize effectiveness current efforts should be assessed and re-designed within the framework of the mission and values of the Office of Student Diversity articulated above.  Where appropriate some programs should be transferred to other units or phased out.

Interaction within the division of Education and Student Life as well in interaction with other sectors programmatic strategies should be seen as a multi-dimensional matrix.  The matrix model is basic to all the recommended strategic planning-traditional administrative “silos” should be transformed.  Ultimately three- and four-dimensional models are necessary to accommodate the creative potential and complexity of each strategy/situation.  Simply stated, it means simultaneously thinking outside and inside the box.

In the matrix model the horizontal axes emphasize cooperation and mutual support between individuals, socio/cultural groups, and administrative units, initially those within the Division of Education and Student Life but ultimately apply to all campus units involved with the Division.

The vertical axes stress depth of knowledge and understanding within the individual student, socio/cultural group and administrative unit.  In doing so administrative/academic units should always be mindful of the strengths and assets of individuals and groups as well as their weaknesses and deficits.

Regardless of the particular model and time-frame the educational imperative should be at the center of every strategy.  The primary emphasis should always be on a student’s academic achievement and educational excellence.

Phase I:  August 2005 through February 2006 and on-going

1. Seek the endorsement/approval of the Provost of the seven propositions as well as the vision, values and mission of The Office of Student Diversity.

2. Appoint a search/screen committee to begin a national search for a principal administrative officer for the office of Student Diversity.  This committee should consist of students, faculty and staff representative
 of the campus.  Our recommendations for persons who should be included in the candidate pool for the search/screen committee are attached as Appendix D.  The goal should be to bring candidates to campus for interviews in September/October, with additional review and evaluations conducted in October/November.  Hopefully the new incumbent can be in place by February 1, 2006.

We recommend that initially the Office of Diversity be staffed with multicultural group of three professionals, including the principal administrative officer.  Appropriate support staff should be included.

This multicultural staff should have an intuitive knowledge of and commitment to education in health care and the biomedical sciences.  Specific required skill sets should include A) academic achievement experiences and skills; B) counseling and guidance skills; C) program
development and student activities skills; and D) extensive knowledge of personal financial management.

 The Office of Student Diversity should directly or in cooperation with other units and student groups sponsor a range of activities that reflect the historical and cultural experiences of underrepresented minority students.  Some, but not all, of the programs could be:

A. Fall orientation for new students and faculty.
B. Fiesta-Hispanic Heritage Month
C. Gospel Choir
D. LGBT support programs
E. Martin Luther King Birthday program
F. Chinese New Year
G. Black History Month
H. Asian Heritage Month
I. Women’s History Month
J. Cinco de Mayo
K. Reception for graduating URM students
L. Special Award Ceremonies/Programs

3. Review the organization and structure of the Division of Education and Student Life.  The purpose of the review should be to establish a process of professional development as well as unit interaction designed to move current staff into deeper and wider approaches to their current responsibilities as well as more inclusive approaches to diversity issues.

4. Review the pattern of advisory councils involved with the Division of Education and Student Life toward reducing their number and redundancy.  This can enhance the quality of their deliberations and counsel.  We suggest these be merged into a Student Life Advisory Council that is:
a. Appointed by the Provost
b. Convened by the Associate Provost for Education and Student Life
c. Meets once each month for 2 hours
d. Holds an annual retreat to review progress, and analyze the strengths, weaknesses and creative opportunities for the Division of Education and Student Lie.

Phase II: March 2006 and on-going
 
A systematic effort to strengthen the links between the Division of Education and Student Life and the Colleges at MUSC to improve the academic success of all students, with a particular focus on under-represented minority students.  The Specific tasks should focus on :

General student support through counseling/guidance within the context of an emphasis on academic achievement.

Campus-based strategies in support of the student recruitment programs within the Colleges

Outreach:  Support of college-based recruitment programs in South Carolina institutions, focusing particularly on underrepresented minority students.

Phase III:  August 2006 and on-going

A systematic approach to community outreach with simultaneous programs in higher education in South Carolina and the nation, focusing on student recruitment to MUSC.

At the same time there should be outreach efforts to service communities in South Carolina and the nation.  Here the emphasis might be on a dynamic approach to understanding new and developing issues of health and health care, as well as a continued emphasis on resolving issues of health disparities.

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