Conference on multicuturalism attracts faculty, administrators

Victoria Garcia

The world is changing, and it has something to do with diversity.

Just ask business administration professor Bill Roach.

“People used to be conscious of diversity simply because it was the right thing to do, but nowadays it’s a marketing point,” said Roach. “Today, students are more likely to come to a university if it includes a richer more multicultural environment.”

Roach is among a number of faculty and administrators from universities in the Kansas Board of Regents who are planning to attend the 2007 Michael Tilford Conference on Diversity and Multiculturalism.

Scheduled for Oct. 4 and 5, the symposium provides an opportunity for educators and administrators alike to approach curriculum transformation from an institutional perspective. This year’s theme is “Multicultural Transformation: Making it Happen.”

A regular attendee since the conference’s onset in 1994, Roach believes that the two-day event gives teachers the chance to learn about incorporating multiculturalism into the classroom.

“There are words or phrases that we all use at one time or another that we don’t consider to be offensive or inappropriate,” said Roach. “Diversity needs to be talked about so that people can improve upon their intercultural skills.”

This was part of the late Michael Tilford’s vision. After his passing on Nov. 6, 1996, the conference’s name was changed to honor and remember him. Tilford was the Wichita State University representative on the Kansas Regents Conference on Diversity and Multiculturalism Planning Committee from its beginning in 1994 until his death.

“His passing was quite tragic because he still had so much of his life to live,” said Roach. “He was a brilliant and dedicated man.”

Roach believes Washburn University has a good history of diversity. In fact, he says the school has seen a significant change in its student population within the past four to five years.

“I think that minority culture is being better represented in our student organizations on campus,” said Roach.

Despite this, Roach has noticed some students are reluctant to open up about their ancestry and heritage. Furthermore, it is a challenge to clearly document Washburn’s growth in diversity if students are choosing to omit the identification of their race/ethnicity during their admissions process.

“It seems as if a lot of students feel more comfortable in the mainstream, and in talking about their own history, it takes them away from that,” said Roach. “Unfortunately, if there is a part of our history that we are not willing to claim, then it just begins to fade away and soon history that we are not willing to claim, then it just begins to fade away and soon we’ve lost that portion of our roots.”

Assistant business professor Norma Juma will be attending the Tilford Conference for the first time this year. While she already tries to bring a cultural and functional understanding of diversity to her classroom, she hopes that the event will reveal a different and more interesting perspective.

“Being a part of the curriculum committee here on campus, I know that there is always room for improvement,” said Juma. “As a nation we are becoming more mobile and more diverse and that should be reflective in our curriculum and the way it is presented to the students.”

Juma, who strives to better understand her students from other cultures, believes that multiculturalism helps to broaden our understanding of the world we live in.

“In yesteryears you could afford to turn a blind eye to the issues of other states and countries, but now you should be worrying about what’s going on outside your window,” said Juma. “We are faced with a different world today.”

Glad for the opportunity, Juma looks forward to establishing collaborative efforts with fellow conference attendees.

“It’s a chance to interact with faculty, staff and administration from all across the state of Kansas,” said Juma. “A different point of view is a beauty in itself.”