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Diversity panel to address Muslim teaching

March 29, 2007

The College of Education and Professional Studies (COEPS) has a diversity committee that is putting together a panel in April, which will feature four educators who will be discussing teaching in a Muslim community.

Every year there is a different topic the panel focuses its discussion on other cultures and lifestyles; the event is designed to help educate students and faculty about cultural diversity.

The discussion is set up as a question and answer session to give people a chance to participate and learn about another culture they may teach in.

Scott Woitaszewski, an assistant psychology professor, said he has been a member of the diversity committee for five years and chaired the orgaznization for two.

“Last year we talked about gay/lesbian issues,” Woitaszewski said. “It is not just about different ethnicities, but other lifestyles as well.”

There are usually between 50-75 students who attend the discussion every year that the committee invites from classes, he said.

Student diversity organizations at UW-River Falls are constantly trying to promote diversity on campus.

These organizations are all involved in some kind of education-related teaching to help other students and faculty become more aware of diversity.

“I believe that any dialog that will raise awareness of diversity is a great thing to hold on campus,” Ashley Olson, a senior and chair of the Diversity Awareness Committee, said. “Student Organizations and committees are continually trying to promote diversity on campus, but this is an awesome way to get the UWRF community thinking about diversity in a different way.”

The COEPS Diversity Committee is made up of faculty members from teacher education, health and human resources, the psychology department and the communicative disorders program.

The panel is still being formed for April and consists of individuals who work with Muslims from the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin, Woitaszewski said.

“We had a speaker last year that was an expert in South African culture,” he said. “We usually advertise the event through the Falcon Daily and flyers.”

The audience will be primarily students from the University interested in learning more about working with Muslims.

Amber Geehan, an education major who will be graduating in May said she would like to attend one of the discussions because it would be beneficial if she taught students of another culture.

“Every culture is different and it can only make you have a broad idea of teaching,” Geehan said.

Right now the diversity committee only consists of faculty members in the COEPS.

“It has always been a goal to have a student on the committee,” Woitaszewski said.

Ruth Kalms is an assistant professor in social work and a member of the diversity committee.

“The committee is all about trying to educate students and faculty about diversity,” Kalms said. “If we don’t know something we could react in a negative way.”

“We need to know more about the Muslim culture,” she said. “We try to create culture openness through education.”

The event is designed mainly for education majors who may be teaching Muslim students in an urban setting, but it is open to anyone interested in learning more about the culture.

Everyone is welcome to attend the panel discussion set for April 24 at 9 a.m. in the University Center.