Access, transformation and research:
Center for Intercultural Training and Learning promises a bold new vision
By Richard R. Aguirre
All are metaphors that can describe the outcome of the rapid demographic changes sweeping the United States, Indiana, Elkhart County and Goshen. Ethnic, racial, religious and cultural changes are remaking communities, altering attitudes and posing new challenges and opportunities.
Now, Goshen College is building on its historic academic strengths, its Christ-based core values its experience in international education, and its experience in educating ethnic and racial minorities, to more completely link the campus to the increasingly diverse local community through a major new initiative that promises to transform the college.
On Oct. 25, President James E. Brenneman announced a new initiative designed to better educate and prepare students for living and learning in a multicultural society by further diversifying enrollment, creating a more welcoming campus, and offering the lessons learned to others.
The new Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning (CITL) at Goshen College has been created through a $12.5 million, five-year grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. The significant amount of the grant created a positive buzz on campus and in the community and also attracted widespread news coverage when it was announced during a special gathering in the Church-Chapel.
CITL will focus on three areas: strengthening current efforts to recruit and retain regional Latino students; creating an intercultural learning environment to benefit all students; and researching the resources and challenges that changing demographics bring to a rural Midwest community and to higher education.
Much work lies ahead in the coming months, including hiring leadership for the center, finding permanent office space, recruiting students, creating support services and myriad other tasks needed to establish a major new program.
Like “Voices-n-Harmony,” Goshen College’s acclaimed gospel choir that blends a multitude of voices into a joyful, fresh sound, the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning will enlarge the Goshen College circle. It will seek out the talents of diverse people, help them benefit from Goshen College’s academic excellence and core values while the campus is transformed into a more diverse and hospitable community by a new influx of minority students.
“We believe this grant will transform us into truly becoming global citizens in the fullest sense of that value. We will become, we believe and we hope, a signpost of true Christian unity and community,” Brenneman said in announcing the CITL.
Jim Alvarez ’84, a district manager for Mennonite Mutual Aid in Goshen and adjunct professor of business at the college, said he foresees major benefits of the new center, including a greater understanding of local cultures, new opportunities for unique academic research to benefit the college and others and the development of innovative ways to strengthen local businesses and local organizations.
“As a Hispanic, I recognize our responsibility of reaching out to the local community to better understand its heritage,” Alvarez said. “I also desire that our community understand the positive impact that most of us have on this community. There are many Hispanics who in numerous ways support our community by seeking ways to communicate and strengthen ties. We must build the bridges that enhance our communication.”
Brenneman said the time is right for Goshen College to build such bridges to Latinos.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are 44.7 million Latinos in the United States – about 14.4 percent of the U.S. population, as of 2006. Indiana reported having 284,909 Latinos or 4.5 percent of the state’s population, last year, with especially fast growth in northern Indiana. Latinos and other minorities have been drawn to Midwest areas, like Elkhart County, because of increased employment opportunities, especially in manufacturing.
The Census Bureau reported that in 2005 there were 24,626 Latinos in Elkhart County – 12.6 percent of the total population. That gave Elkhart County the largest Latino population by percentage in the state. And minority enrollment in Goshen Public Schools has grown fivefold – from 8 percent to 41 percent – since 1990.
Still, minority enrollment in Indiana’s colleges has increased only 2 percent during the same period and Latinos lag behind other minority groups in getting a higher education — factors that prompted Goshen College to partner with Lilly Endowment to create the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning. The aim is to simultaneously address the needs of the college, the community and higher education.
“With its tenet of welcoming the newcomer and its legacy of excellence in education and community service, Goshen College is well suited to launch this new center,” said Sara B. Cobb, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for education. “It will benefit not only Goshen students and communities in northern Indiana, but through research and dissemination efforts it also should help colleges and communities throughout the country in enhancing their efforts to reach out to Latino and other minority students.”
Just as the international Study-Service Term (SST), which was started in 1968, has transformed the college’s curriculum, the campus culture and the lives of its students and alumni, Brenneman believes the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning will produce similar outcomes. A strong emphasis will be on research – and sharing that knowledge with others.
“Goshen College, we hope, will become a thought lab, a thought leader. What Goshen learns from this program will be disseminated across the country to colleges and universities in similar demographic circumstances,” Brenneman said. “We will be able to share what we learn on the national stage.”
So what’s happened since the grant was announced last fall?
The center initially is being developed by a transition team led by John Yordy, provost and executive vice president, that also includes Anita Stalter, vice president for academic affairs and academic dean, and Bill Born, vice president for student life and dean of students.
Yordy said the team’s work has centered on establishing an infrastructure for the new center, hiring transitional staff members, arranging for office space and equipment, recruiting a permanent staff and laying a solid foundation for the center’s eventual leadership. Now that Liliana Garcia, an enrollment counselor has been hired, the focus has shifted to hiring a project director, a research director and a director of curriculum, instruction and faculty development.
Plans call for establishing scholarships, recruiting a Latino cohort of 10-15 students for enrollment in the fall of 2007, providing cultural programming for the campus, supplementing student support services, reaching into the local Latino community and offering opportunities for current faculty to learn Spanish. Other possibilities include collaborative faculty-student research, a “bridge” program to assist minority students in preparation for college, partnerships with other colleges and universities and the local public schools, recruitment of Latino and other minority faculty and assessment of the college’s academic curriculum.
The first public aspect of the new center has been creation of a Web site (citl.goshen.edu/). As might be expected, it features English and Spanish-language content – a small but important early sign of change, hospitality and transformation at Goshen College. It’s likely to be a high-tech herald of even greater change on campus over the next five years and beyond.
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