• Participants in the Engaged Diversity Symposium stand with members of the Engaged Diversity Project Steering Committee.
    Participants in the Engaged Diversity Symposium stand with members of the Engaged Diversity Project Steering Committee.

The results of a three-year collaborative program between three historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and two predominantly white universities will be on display Oct. 8 as Southwestern University hosts the Edgar F. Beckham Engaged Diversity Symposium.

The symposium will feature seven presentations by current and former faculty members from Dillard University in New Orleans, Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Morehouse College in Atlanta, Rhodes College in Memphis and Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.

The research projects were funded by a three-year, $150,000 grant Southwestern University received from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Although originally designed as a faculty exchange program, the program’s greatest benefit ended up being the fact that it facilitated collaborative research projects between faculty members who share common interests.

“Faculty members at small liberal arts colleges may not have others on their campuses who share the same research interests,” said Ron Swain, senior advisor to the president for strategic planning and assessmentat Southwestern University. Swain served as the project director.

Most of the research projects originated at a meeting for interested participants that was held at Huston-Tillotson University in 2008. The program ended up funding a total of 12 projects. The four projects that will be presented at the Oct. 8 symposium are as follows:

  • Chris Wetzel, a psychology professor from Rhodes College, will present a study he did with Anne Borden, a sociology professor from Morehouse College, titled “The More We are Different, the More We are Alike: Faculty Perceptions of Campus Climate Diversity Issues at Two Liberal Arts Colleges.”
  • Valerie L. Epps, a mathematics instructor at Dillard University, and Gloria C. Love, former assistant professor of Computer Science/Mathematics and Education at Dillard University, will present their project titled “Accommodating Diversity in the College Level Mathematics Classroom Through the Use of Differentiated Instruction.”
  • Winona Somervill, a sociology professor from Dillard University, and Marcus Pohlmann, a political science professor from Rhodes College, will present their study of racial segregation in the Memphis and New Orleans public schools.
  • Joseph Zavala, a former Spanish professor at Southwestern University, will present his project titled “A Contested and Conflictive World: The Andean Elite and the Great Rebellion of 1780-1781.”

The symposium will begin at 9 a.m. in the Lynda McCombs Ballroom on the second floor of Southwestern’s Campus Center. It is free and open to the public. For more information, call 512-863-1940.

The symposium is named for the late Edgar F. Beckham, who led national efforts to promote racial and cultural diversity on college campuses in the 1990s. Beckham served as head of the Ford Foundation’s Campus Diversity Initiative, and was later senior fellow at the Association of American Colleges and Universities. He is credited with coining the term “engaged diversity.” Beckham helped Southwestern develolp its proposal to the Mellon Foundation for the exchange program.

“This symposium honors the legacy of Edgar F. Beckham and also is a milestone in Southwestern University’s strategic vision of creating strong alliances with historically black colleges and universities,” Swain said. “The event also sets the course for future innovative educational partnerships among institutions that serve students from a wide range of demographic, geographical, socio-economic and otherwise different backgrounds. It could very well create a national conversation about a new paradigm of engaging diversity in liberal arts education.”


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