Maeda discusses “imbalance” of Mac’s pillars of academic success

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Macalester has long boasted a commitment to multiculturalism and internationalism as pillars of its mission. However, some administrators believe that over time, those concepts have been conflated and decontextualized. On March 5, Dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship (IGC) Donna Maeda spoke to the Legislative Body (LB) at an MCSG meeting, and described the history of the relationship between the two pillars.

“We need to think about the different trajectories of internationalism and multiculturalism and the imbalance of that,” Maeda said. “What are the roots of that imbalance and the implications of that imbalance?”

She expressed what she perceives to be a widely-held belief that multiculturalism and internationalism are almost the same concept situated within different contexts. Maeda thinks this comparison is inaccurate given that internationalism and multiculturalism have different histories and epistemologies.

At Macalester, for example, the rise of multiculturalism as an uncontested principle of the institution might be a relatively recent phenomenon.

“In the 1980s, multiculturalism, affirmative action, trying to diversify student body and faculty, those became the subject of political struggle and lawsuits,” Maeda said.“And so institutions like Macalester weren’t really putting forward that ‘This is what we’re about.’”

Maeda also touched on the Expanding Educational Opportunities (EEO) program. The program began in 1968 to increase diversity on campus by providing scholarships to low-income applicants. At its inception, the program had a budget of $800,000 to bring in 75 students each year from marginalized backgrounds, particularly black students.

Funding setbacks cut the number down to 40, and eventually, the program diminished altogether only seven years after its initiation. The EEO’s termination led to student protests in 1974 when students occupied 77 Mac. “At the same time, the presence of internationalism is rising,” Maeda added. “In 2005 the IGC was established and in 2009 a very beautiful new building [Markim Hall] was built to house the IGC. So what’s happening to the other side of it? Does the [Department of Multicultural Life] (DML) have a beautiful building and the same kinds of resources?”

Maeda noted that in her present role her mission is to bring multiculturalism, internationalism and service to society into closer relationship with one another. She has noticed that the DML currently plays a critical role in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on campus, especially in classrooms.

When Maeda came to Macalester, she noticed right away the need for this work in classroom settings.

“I was hearing… about what already felt [like] a distance and sort of a lack of communication that made it even harder for indigenous [students] and students of color to feel like they could do anything to change some of the contexts in their classes,” Maeda said.

“I noticed that when it comes to issues of equity, inclusion and diversity, who are the ones who really know what’s going on, who have been hearing from students because it’s been their job to do it? It’s the DML,” she continued.

Some students on campus are well-acquainted with the DML’s support system when it comes to issues of inequity and bias. Santiago Padrón ’21 said they saw the DML as a major resource in fall semester 2018 in the wake of incidents of bias and hate on campus.

“In the fall, maybe three days after the swastikas showed up, maybe even two days after the swastikas showed up, [Dean of Multicultural Life Marjorie Trueblood] and Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman organized a processing session which was really well done and focused on solutions and generating solutions,” Padrón said. “It was really meaningful. I can’t articulate enough how much the folks that work in the DML care about students and how much that comes across.”

Because the DML staff works closely with students to resolve issues of inequity and lack of diversity in their classrooms, Maeda asked Assistant Dean for College Access and Retention Sedric McClure to participate on a committee of faculty and staff that works with Dr. Jamie Washington.

Dr. Washington is the president and founder of the Washington Consulting Group, a multicultural organizational development firm, and he has made several visits to Macalester this year to meet with faculty, staff and students to discuss how to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion at Macalester.

McClure has been a staff member at the DML since he came to Macalester in 1999. Since then, he has witnessed the evolution of the DML. “I think the experience of multiculturalism at Macalester in some ways follows a similar path of the country,” McClure said. “So when there’s social change in the broader society, it also shows up of course on college campuses.”

“…Because of conversations that we’ve been having with students, race had been a significant entry point into a more intersectional conversation,” he continued, “and since then we’ve been getting feedback and working with students as an institution, and then at one point we said we’re trying to move from in the margins out into the center. So that’s why from orientation to graduation, you have the presence of the DML.”

“Now we are engaged in a process to try to create some flow between [International Student Programs] (ISP) and the DML with some renovation of the first level of Kagin, we’re going to have some org engagement space for students to come and do that. But nothing like a building [like Markim Hall].”

McClure is also aware of the institutional presence of internationalism.

“Internationalism is sexy, to be quite frank with you,” McClure said. “As a value, it has always had a strong presence, a visible presence at Macalester, and then when you talk about multiculturalism, it again follows the pattern of the country and so forth.”

McClure often engages in conversations with students about the presence of internationalism compared to multiculturalism.

“One way that students used to say that internationalism had an institutional presence but some challenges around the day-to-day experience, but around multiculturalism we have the day-to-day support, but not the institutional presence… so being on the campus, having institutional presence, it’s not the same thing as intentionally building community.”

In a later interview with The Mac Weekly, Maeda illustrated the efforts to increase the institutional presence of the DML through new campus-wide initiatives. One major initiative is bringing Dr. Washington to campus. Dr. Washington’s visits are focused on bringing the values of diversity, equity and inclusion to the entire campus.

Before Fall 2018, senior staff, the DML and the IGC originally invited Dr. Washington just as the keynote speaker at the Fall Academic Issues Retreat, but then they decided to invite him for a series of visits.

“As we were having conversations about the need for more attention, more visibility, more attention to multiculturalism, the president agreed to provide funding for Dr. Washington to come… for a series of visits where he’d be working with the whole campus,” Maeda said. “So that’s how it got lifted up, like how are we thinking about multiculturalism institutionally and how it’s built into everybody’s work.”

Associate Director of the Library Angi Faiks has attended almost all of the events for staff featuring Dr. Washington since he first visited in September. Faiks said that she was really excited to hear that staff members were invited to the diversity, equity and inclusion events; most events focused on inclusion, she says, are focused only on students and faculty.

“This is the first major campus-wide coordinated ongoing inclusive, more deep-learning [event] that I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Faiks said.

“Sometimes there’s development for the faculty, sometimes there’s development for the students and sometimes I feel like the staff are thirsty and hungry to learn but don’t really have a sort of coordinated way to tap into that.

“My understanding is that the DML… is focused on the students, and then Donna Maeda and the IGC [are] really focused on the faculty,” Faiks continued, “and there are pieces that are focused on the staff, but not as specifically and deliberately, so [these events] felt like a treat to us.”

According to Trueblood, the next step for the DML to increase its institutional presence is to continue to connect all parts of campus to coordinated conversations about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We’re starting to think about how we can collaborate with other folks to break down some of the silos that we see in our community,” Trueblood said. “So whether that is opening up more spaces for faculty, staff and students to have dialogue, or to learn about social justice education together or to weather through hard times… we definitely want all of them to be part of those experiences.”

In terms of the gap between the institutional presences of multiculturalism and internationalism, Trueblood says one way to bolster the presence of the DML is to increase the partnership between the IGC and the DML.

“I don’t think that how things have been prioritized make it like ‘us versus them,’” Trueblood said. “I think that we’re really trying to break that down and not say ‘Multiculturalism doesn’t matter and now we need to attack internationalism,’ that’s not the approach either.”

“Some of the things that we’re working on this year is to bolster our partnership with ISP to figure out how can our international students start having that day-to-day support and community building that we’ve been providing for other populations on campus,” Trueblood added.

“In terms of programming with ISP, we have created a student position to help be a liaison between our two offices for next year to help develop international specific programming,” Trueblood wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “We are also looking at co-hosting the Talk and Tea programs that they currently do on Fridays for the next year.”

“Our work with the IGC includes the work that we have done with Dr. Washington, stronger collaboration on planning the International Roundtable, Developing Intergroup Dialogue Spaces for faculty and staff, and hosting a monthly Connecting with the Deans dinner.”

Overall, Trueblood would like to see the DML build more intentional community for students from all backgrounds, both domestic and international.

“If we’re helping all of us across campus think about like how we can be a community that is built on relationship and seeing people for who we are, we can get a lot further.”