Donna Maeda came to Macalester this past fall to a position that is not only new to her, but new to Macalester as well. She was chosen in December 2016 to be both the Dean of the Institute of Global Citizenship and the Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity.
The Dean of the Institute of Global Citizenship already existed at Macalester, but the position of the Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity was a reworking of the Dean for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Maeda joins Macalester after over twenty years at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California. At Occidental, she was a faculty member and chair of the department of Critical Theory and Social Justice, teaching classes that brought together critical race theory, legal studies and post-colonial theory.
Maeda was raised in the Twin Cities and received her bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College. She then moved to California and received her PhD from the University of Southern California in 1994 and her Juris Doctor from the University of California, Berkeley in 2003. At Macalester, she plans to teach one class a year in the American studies department. She hopes to teach a class called “Law and Empire,” which draws on her background in critical race theory and her law degree.
Maeda brings to Macalester not only her experience as a professor, but also her experience with community engagement and multiculturalism. When she arrived at Occidental in 1993, the college was undergoing significant institutional change in terms of multiculturalism. The college worked to recruit a more diverse student body and faculty and reconsidered their curriculum and academic departments.
Macalester is in a different position in terms of diversity and inclusion, and perhaps has not committed to an institutional transformation in the same way Occidental has. For example, 42 percent of all students at Occidental were students of color in 2016, compared to 21 percent at Macalester. Maeda sees this moment at Macalester as an opportunity to implement meaningful change when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
Internationalism, multiculturalism and global citizenship are all parts of the mission of the Institute for Global Citizenship. However, the addition of the Dean of Faculty Diversity and Development to the IGC Dean position increases the emphasis on multiculturalism. “A couple of people have described to me, ‘It’s like a three legged stool with two legs and a toothpick’; that multiculturalism has never been as well developed as internationalism and service and engagement,” Maeda said. She sees this position as an opportunity to bring together people doing work in multiculturalism at Macalester, supporting that work and moving it forward. Maeda believes that institutional support at Macalester exists. “What’s interesting to me about Macalester is that a lot of people are on board with multiculturalism,” she said. “The challenge is to promote a deeper understanding of what that is in relationship to internationalism and the very difficult politics and history.”
Maeda’s previous experience with the Center for Community Based Learning at Occidental also informs her approach to the work of the IGC. Her involvement in community-based learning was transformative because it required her to “unlearn what I learned as a faculty member.” Community-based learning courses have projects or field trips with community partner as an important part of the course and the syllabus is designed with the community partner. “We’re not always the experts; there’s community knowledge that’s just as important as academic knowledge,” Maeda said.
However, the expectations for scholarship and faculty work may need to be reconsidered for community-based learning and research to be fully embraced. Maeda knows this from her experience in the department of critical theory and social justice at Occidental. “[We were] doing critical race theory, queer theory,” she said. “But at the same time, we did things in a standard faculty way too, because we were a department like other departments, and there’s resources we have to get, and classes we have to teach.” Because of this, coordinated change across different sectors on campus would be needed. One place where she sees potential for better bridges is in the classroom. After the student walk-in in November, some faculty members expressed needing to be able to identify students in need and send them to Students Affairs or the Department of Multicultural Life. Maeda recognizes that there are some issues faculty are not trained or equipped to deal with. However, she also sees moments like the hate markings last semester as opportunities for faculty to consider their teaching styles and what goes on in their classrooms.
Working on diversity and inclusion in Minnesota is not just a professional interest for Maeda, but a personal one. She notes that the Twin Cities have changed since her childhood here, especially in terms of diversity, but not completely. This is one of the other reasons she was interested in coming back. “It’s an opportunity to change some of the things I experienced in Minnesota,” she said.