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Strengthening Multicultural Education Programming in the College

The dean's Connections column for November 2007

Dean's Message, November 2007

monk_cp.jpgWe are continuing to make progress at strengthening our Office of Multicultural Programs, and I am pleased to provide this update. 

Perhaps the most obvious change in the office is its physical location. Last January, thanks to the support of the provost, we succeeded at moving the Office into prominent renovated space on the first floor of the classroom section of Chambers Building. The new location provides additional square footage that is being used to provide instructional support for students in the College. The study areas are proving to be quite popular with our students and the support we are providing reflects a significant expansion of the services being provided by the Office.

Beginning last June, the Office accepted supervisory responsibility for the Penn State Educational Partnership Program (PEPP). As many of you know, PEPP is a well-regarded and long-standing after-school tutoring program that operates at three locations (McKeesport, Reading, and Philadelphia) in Pennsylvania. PEPP provides a valuable connection to underserved populations in middle schools and high schools and is designed to build skills and to make students more aware of postsecondary educational opportunities, especially those offered by Penn State. There are many points of connection between PEPP and multicultural programming, and I’m confident that the new administrative structure will be mutually beneficial. 

The Office continues to be the base for our Summer College Opportunity Program in Education (SCOPE) which will be enrolling its 7th cohort of students in the summer of 2008. SCOPE works with rising juniors in high school and has succeeded admirably at gaining visibility for the College of Education in high schools within Pennsylvania and beyond. A number of SCOPE graduates are now enrolled as undergraduates in the College of Education at Penn State (and elsewhere) and we are very proud of their accomplishments.

PEPP and SCOPE both are part of a larger ongoing and growing effort of the Office to encourage high school students from underrepresented and underserved groups to consider teaching as a career. The Office has also been very active with the Future Educators Association and hosted that organization’s statewide conference in State College last year. These efforts are conducted in close cooperation with the relevant Penn State offices such as Admissions and Financial Aid, as well as with external groups like the University Education Partners with the Philadelphia School District.

Penn State’s rising tuition costs are creating new and quite significant financial problems for students from underrepresented and underserved groups, and the Office is being called upon to an unprecedented degree to provide financial aid advising services. This is an increasingly technical area, and staying aware of the evolving policies and available opportunities is a major challenge.

We are also seeing the Office as a resource for curriculum development throughout the College. In the future, when instructors wish to strengthen multicultural aspects of their courses, we hope they will think of the Multicultural Program Office as a source of expertise and access to valuable curricular materials. This is an emerging area of emphasis for the Office and you will be hearing more about the effort in the months to come.

We can be very proud of the progress the College’s Office of Multicultural Programs is making, and I am pleased to see the leadership the Office is providing for the entire University. In my meeting last spring with Rod Erickson and Terrell Jones to review the feedback we received on our efforts as a College to implement Penn State’s Framework to Foster Diversity, the University’s satisfaction with our College’s Office was very clear. We were encouraged to continue to strengthen the Office and to consider redesigning the director’s position so that it is more aligned with academic programming within the College. A number of other Colleges at Penn State have turned the director’s position into an assistant dean position, and we will be examining this possibility for the College of Education in the next few months.

In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts about our multicultural programming efforts. Your comments can be sent to me or to Maria Schmidt, the Office’s director. Thank you.

David H. Monk