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School of Education refocusing efforts to support diversity

December 24, 2014

KU’s School of Education is undertaking a new initiative to enhance the focus on diversity and equity. The intent is to help the School become more comfortable with diversity in all its forms, including examining the curriculum regarding content and working to create a more diverse
population of students, staff and faculty. 

The initiative originated in conversations between Dean Rick Ginsberg and the chairs of the Departments of Special Education, Elizabeth Kozleski, and Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Susan Twombly. They collaborated with other KU School of Education leaders to develop a plan to increase the emphasis on diversity throughout the School. The faculty’s multicultural committee joined them in planning a series of events during the academic year. 

Several events for students, faculty and staff during the 2013-2014 academic year addressed varying topics of diversity and equity. A retreat for faculty and staff in the fall of 2013 was led by Shaun Harper, a nationally recognized expert on race and equity in education. He challenged the faculty and staff to think about ways to improve outcomes for students from a variety of backgrounds through teaching, advising and research. One session was dedicated to discussing micro aggressions — brief and commonplace indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative insult.

A two-day workshop for faculty and instructional staff focused on ways that course content and teaching methods could be revised to improve students’ understanding of and critical thinking about diversity-related topics. The event drawing the highest attendance was a talk on the experiences of transgender people. The inspiration came from a conversation at the superintendents’ circle in which K-12 administrators discussed issues that arise in providing support for transgender youth in local schools.

Students and alumni from the KU School of Education work in diverse settings throughout the nation and the world, and they benefit from training and experiences that will help them serve their communities better. This past summer, recent graduates were surveyed about experiences with diversity in KU’s School of Education and how prepared they felt to work with students and clients from a variety of different backgrounds. Their feedback will help the KU School of Education to further improve instruction and better prepare graduates to work and live in an increasingly diverse world.

Plans include continuing seminars and events; increasing service learning opportunities with a variety of students and clients; and providing additional opportunities for students to work with diverse populations through field experience, student teaching, internships and practicum sites. Focusing future research on diversity-related topics is a goal closely tied to strategic initiatives in Bold Aspirations, KU’s multi-year strategic plan. 

10th among public universities for its master’s and doctoral programs
—U.S. News & World Report
#1 public program in nation for special education
—U.S. News & World Report
Assists public schools and other partners in all 105 Kansas counties
$938,377 in scholarship funds awarded to 420+ students
Research expenditures of $36,804,773 for 2011-12
Research from KU’s largest grant, the $24.5 million SWIFT project, assists educators, children, and families across the United States
The award-winning special education faculty published 140 refereed articles, 11 books, and 60 chapters in 2015-16
Students with intellectual disabilities are participating in KU undergraduate programs through a grant-funded KU special education program
Researchers on a $3.5 million grant are collecting data on an innovative reading program designed to teach reading to students with the most significant disabilities in seven Kansas school districts
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
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