CommUNITY fosters diversity

Lisa Petersen

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A group of about 60 freshmen students will be part of a new Marquette program intended to help students think critically about their cross-cultural interactions.

The program, known as Marquette CommUNITY, has been implemented in McCormick Hall for one wing of female residents and one wing of male residents to live together in a structured environment designed to give them more opportunities to learn about other cultures. Each resident of these wings, located on the seventh and eighth floors of McCormick, is required to take a class titled, “The Dynamics of Cross-Cultural Engagement.” This class meets the students’ diversity requirement for the core curriculum and gives them time to react and ask questions about their experiences in an academic environment.

This program stems from an idea a group of faculty and administrators have looked at for several years, said Jim McMahon dean of Residence Life. He said the university officially accepted the program late last spring.

The goal, McMahon said, was to provide an inclusive living community that was particularly welcoming to minority students.

McMahon said McCormick Hall was chosen because the building is the most active, which will prevent isolating these students.

Last spring, each incoming freshman was sent an information packet and application to be a part of this new cross-cultural environment. Of those who returned applications, most were chosen to live on the floors. McMahon said the best part of the program is that everyone who was placed on these wings wanted to be there. According to McMahon, the floors are an “interesting” blend of ethnicities, including several international students.

“This is the kind of thing that helps our students broaden their experiences,” McMahon said.

According to program director Robert Masson, the academic portion of the program is set up like a small group seminar. The students are divided up into six class sections for this weekly class, and the yearlong course is worth three credits.

The class focuses on readings with cross-cultural encounters, including fiction and historical stories that describe the dynamics of cultural engagement. Class time will be used to discuss the readings and doing different exercises.

The pass/fail class fills a diversity requirement in the new core curriculum for most of the colleges, Masson said. He said it is unique because one particular college does not sponsor it, and it integrates activities in residence life with the classroom.

“Personally I think cross-cultural encounter is one of the issues our society needs to work on,” Masson said.

Masson said that many students come to Marquette expecting it to be much different than high school and find that it is not as different as they hoped in regards to diversity. He said this program was designed to create an opportunity for cross-cultural experiences to happen because they were not happening naturally.

Junior Sara Shaeufele, the resident assistant on the female cultural wing, said that the new floor arrangements seem to be going well so far.

Shaeufele said the floor creates a good environment for her residents to meet and work with people from different cultures. Beside the class, she said that the group plans to do different activities to increase awareness of different cultures.

McMahon and Masson said that they hope to see the program continue for a few years at its current size to see how students react to the opportunity.

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