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League Innovations Conference Hones In on Diversity Issues at Community Colleges

ANAHEIM, Calif. ― About 1,500 attendees representing community colleges nationwide and administrators from abroad at the 16th annual League Innovations 2014 conference are tackling issues on their campuses that range from diversity and inclusion to resource development and sustainability.

“International students who might not necessarily understand the cultural dynamics of groups different from theirs is an obstacle we would like to address on our campus,” said Dr. Sabab Sabbah of the Community College of Qatar.

Sabbah is optimistic that “conversations on equity are taking place but is much more needed internationally.” Administrators from one of the largest community college systems in the U.S. share the same sentiment.

Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at the Maricopa Community Colleges system Dr. Samuel Dosumu discussed the need for more work to be done in the form of recruiting faculty, staff and administrators representative of the students they serve.

“Many community college systems talk about what diversity initiatives can do for their campus, but for whatever reason lack implementation when it comes to hiring faculty and administrators,” Dosumu said. “The conversation in academia needs to change from what diversity is, to how we can address who we hire, to reflect the students we take in.”

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion sessions have included sessions on African-American male success strategies at community colleges, opportunities to advance for diverse faculty and staff and institutional transformation for employee diversity and inclusion.

Dean of Instruction Dr. Stephanie Fujii of Scottsdale Community College presented a panel discussion that addressed faculty search committees. A self-proclaimed practitioner of diversity work for over 25 years, Fujii frames the basis of her work on “underrepresented students, how we can be more inclusive as administrators and ensure equitable outcomes for all students.”

The emphasis on search committees and the need for faculty to represent the campus demographic effectively is paramount to student success at community colleges.

“What is good for some students, is good for all students,” Fujii said.

According to Fujii, the hiring process is flawed and the need to rectify the process is great since community colleges serve students as they are.

“When working with and for a community college we are answering a call to action for social justice,” Fujii said. “As open-access institutions we take students as they come, regardless of circumstance. Reshaping the hiring process for faculty starts with addressing what is going on with the search committees.”

Other diversity panel discussion themes will address immigration reform with relation to community college voters, curriculum implementation on flexible learning across cultures, veteran inclusive community college campuses and minority male student college success strategies. The conference, which continues through today, offers more than 500 sessions, featuring case studies, tutorials, seminars and state-of-the-art practices.

Jamal E. Mazyck can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @jmbeyond7

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