Date of Award

12-2004

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

Handel Wright

Committee Members

Joy DeSensi, Mark Hulsether, William Morgan

Abstract

This study, conducted in two phases, examined the extent and scope of multicultural initiatives at Appalachian College Association (ACA) colleges and the experiences of 15 students, faculty and staff members, and administrators at one predominantly white college in central Appalachian. In the first phase, data was gathered by surveys completed by a random sample of ACA faculty. The purpose of the survey was 1) to examine the extent and scope of multicultural initiatives at ACA schools, and 2) to select one ACA College where a qualitative study of multicultural initiatives could be conducted. The survey findings offer demographic and descriptive profiles of the faculty members who participated in the random sample survey. The findings also detail the curricular and co-curricular offerings that support diversity. The extent and scope of programs and services that address the needs and interests of American minority students and International students who attend ACA schools are also presented. And finally, from the quantitative data, ACA colleges are ranked with aggregate scores that express the degree to which each school describes its multicultural initiatives.

In the second phase, a qualitative study was completed by examining the experiences of 15 students, faculty, staff members and administrators of one ACA college. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews served as the primary source of data. The purpose of this phase was 1) to establish the environment of a predominantly white liberal arts college in Appalachia, 2) to use the environment as a context in which students, faculty, staff members and administrators could comment on multicultural issues, 3) to capture the challenges that students, faculty, staff members and administrators face as diversity initiatives are addressed and implemented, 4) to offer recommendations from students faculty, staff members and administrators that address the challenges they face, and 5) to enhance their recommendations with research on multicultural theory and diversity initiatives.

Many themes emerged from this study. Students from Appalachia, minority students, and minority faculty and staff acclimate themselves to the college in different ways. The curriculum continues to reflect Western views and voices; faculty and staff need training to incorporate diversity initiatives into their programs. Students from the majority lack experience with diverse cultures; they also perceive the culture and values they possess as people from Appalachia and as whites as natural, unremarkable, and not in fact cultural; they also do not understand that they have been socialized with racist attitudes by their environment. The racial segregation of the colleges’ sports teams and student organizations suggests that the administration needs to examine its own institutional racism. Finally, the college also does not address overt acts of racism promptly.

Recommendations include expanding orientation and mentoring programs. The curriculum also needs to be revised to include non-Western voices and experiences. Campus programming should include cultural and religious events of American minorities. Travel nationally and abroad as well as participation in community service programs would offer students insight into diverse communities with which they are unfamiliar. While coaches and sports staff members address the segregation of sports teams, charters of racially segregated organizations should be revoked; nevertheless, historically oppressed groups should be given latitude in forming support groups. Minority faculty and staff should be supported for the strengths they bring and the challenges they face in this predominantly white community.

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