Dean Judy Nichols MitchellBy Judy Nichols Mitchell
Dean, WSU College of Education

In the Washington town where she grew up, no one expects Hispanics to earn college degrees, Anna Ochoa Rivas says. Those who plan to attend college are met with skepticism, especially if they are female. But Anna beat the odds. In May, she received a double degree in accounting and Spanish from WSU. This month, she will enter our masters in teaching (M.I.T.) program.

Our state and nation urgently need more teachers of color. Building their ranks with determined people such as Anna is one of our dreams here at the College of Education, where diversity is a top priority. That’s why we are enthusiastic partners with the Martinez Foundation, which just initiated its M.I.T. fellowships for minority students who want to teach. Anna is one of WSU’s five Martinez fellowship winners; others are Shannon Gleason, Elida Guevara, Kevin Takasaki and Jenna Visoria. There will also be five Martinez fellows each at the University of Washington and Seattle University.

Edgar and Holli Martinez take a personal interest in the students they help, and plan to offer support and encouragement far beyond the generous $15,000 fellowships. We look forward to collaborating with their foundation, and the other universities.

We support diversity in our teaching, research and outreach in many other ways. Among them:

The Clearinghouse on Native Teaching & Learning. Faculty associated with the Clearinghouse made a stellar effort in the past year that resulted in the state-funded study From Where the Sun Rises: Addressing the Educational Achievement
of Native Americans in Washington State
. The report’s key recommendations include improving relationships between public school districts and tribes, and creating courses in college education programs that stress culturally appropriate methods.

Associate Professor Michael Pavel was primary investigator for the report. Working with him were Associate Professor SusanRae Banks-Joseph, Assistant Professor Lali McCubbin, Assistant Professor Ella Inglebret, and postdoctoral Research Associate Jason Sievers. When the team presents its findings to the WSU President’s Native American Advisory Board this month, they will be honored for their efforts by the Governor’s Office on Indian Affairs. Not that they’re resting on their laurels. The report will be continually refined. Says Dr. Pavel: “It is a living document.”

The Globalization, Diversity, and Education Conference. The 2009 conference, our fifth, was a resounding success. I add my voice to the participant who wrote: “My thanks to the entire conference team for a great job … Bravo!” This year’s conference drew 150 representatives from 16 states as well as Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Its size, we are told, is one of its joys. In addition to providing a mix of presentations that would be hard to find elsewhere—such as cultural pedagogies, contemporary identity shaping, media literacy and sustainability, to name a few—the organizers provide time for the networking and socializing not always possible at other, larger conferences.

The 2009 Globalization Conference was the first to be organized by our cultural studies faculty, who are already making plans for the 2010 conference. It will still take place beside the Spokane River, but will move upstream from the Red Lion Hotel to WSU Spokane’s Riverfront campus.

The Cultural Studies and Social Thought Ph.D. Program. One hallmark of this program is the way doctoral candidates are mentored by faculty into the world of research, teaching and action. Another is its emphasis on turning theory into practice. Thirteen of the current cultural studies 22 students are members of ethnic minorities and/or international students. Among them is joan.o’sa oviawe, who was named WSU’s 2009 Woman of the Year. Joan was an established policy specialist and social activist before arriving in Pullman, and will return to her native Nigeria eager to apply what she has learned here.

Brandon Sternod, one of the program’s first graduates, is an assistant professor at California State University, Stanislaus. Brandon recently sent us the kind of feedback that makes our efforts worthwhile. He described the cultural studies program as “a unique and enriching experience for any educator and/or aspiring scholar. The subjects it addresses are timely, challenging, and provocative. The faculty and collegiality are second to none. And the opportunities for personal and professional growth and development are limitless.”

We have other projects and programs, both ongoing and developing, that focus on issues of diversity and culture. I look forward to sharing details of those with you in the future.