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Ivy Tech employees focus on diverse needs of students

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Written By: Lauren Slagter   1/7/15

Ivy Tech Community College employees in the Kokomo and Lafayette regions are taking extra steps to understand their students’ needs through a new diversity certificate program.

About 75 faculty and staff members are currently working through the diversity certificate program launched in the spring semester that requires employees to complete a training program, attend two diversity events on campus and two diversity events in the community and then write about their experiences on the college’s BlackBoard site to foster discussion among their peers.

“[Economic, racial and social] diversity is essential as we look toward the future of the country,” said Chancellor David Bathe during a presentation on the diversity certificate at the Ivy Tech Kokomo region board of trustees meeting in May. “Really, community college is the course where most minorities begin higher education.”

Ivy Tech is taking a closer look at the needs of those minority students and their retention rate at the community college.

“Every ethnic background is going to have its own set of traditions and ways of doing things. That sometimes works well and sometimes clashes with community college procedures,” said Andrew Antonio, executive director of diversity and engagement for Ivy Tech’s Lafayette and Kokomo regions, who helped develop the diversity certificate.

He gave the example of making a point to invite Latino families along with their students to the community college’s events because their culture places a high value on family.

“The family unit is really crucial [in the Latino culture] and a lot of times they live together longer before going out on their own. So we really have to have that buy-in from the family,” he said.

In the Kokomo region, Hispanic/Latino people account for about 5 percent of Ivy Tech’s students, compared to 7.2 percent of the region’s general population, according to data Antonio presented to the Kokomo region board of trustees in May. He said the regional Hispanic community is relatively young, so it will be a few years before more of that population is ready to attend college. Three percent of the Ivy Tech Kokomo region’s full-time faculty and staff are Hispanic/Latino.

African Americans make up 5.1 percent of students and 10 percent of full-time employees in Ivy Tech’s Kokomo region, compared to about 2.5 percent of the region’s general population. Multi-racial individuals account for 5.7 percent of the student population, 1 percent of faculty and staff and about 5 percent of the Kokomo region’s general population.

“Every area is very different in the population it serves and what the needs are,” Antonio said. “It’s typical that community colleges serve a larger population of minorities than are in the community or that go to other colleges.”

Ivy Tech staff have identified African American males and Latino females as two populations they would like to target with specific services, which may come in the form of creating a cohort that would be offered additional support like mentoring.

Celestine Johnson, executive director of human resources for the local Ivy Tech region, sees the diversity certificate benefiting faculty too. She is in the process of earning her diversity certificate, after attending this year’s Doing the Dream event featuring LeVar Burton and completing training sessions on working with LGBT students and staff and on recognizing people’s personalities in a work environment.

“As the HR director, I’m always interested in better relationships in the work place,” Johnson said. “I’m also interested in diversifying our workforce and treating everyone equally.”

Other efforts to improve diversity and global awareness at Ivy Tech include the next phase in a Global Learning Across Indiana initiative. Starting as early as the fall semester, Ivy Tech students across the state will have the option to earn a global learning certificate by enrolling in certain elective classes. Indiana University has been involved in the three-year partnership, funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant in 2013, that began with redesigning some of Ivy Tech’s curriculum to add more international components and offer Arabic language instruction.

Next spring, Ivy Tech’s Kokomo region also will start a two-week professional exchange program where local nursing faculty will be paired with nursing faculty from the Netherlands to visit each other’s campuses.

“It’s a great eye-opening experience for them to see how other parts of the world do things and also to see how they react to the way we do things,” Antonio said.

Source: Kokomo Tribune http://www.kokomotribune.com/news/ivy-tech-employees-focus-on-diverse-needs-of-students/article_77ede93c-1f55-11e5-97bd-6bee254910a0.html

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