Focus on Equity and Diversity (Interviews with Stanback-Stroud Diversity Award winner, Nicholas Arnold, and Regina Stanback-Stroud)

David Clay, Professor in English at Cañada College, Equity and Diversity Action Committee

Established in 1998 by the Academic Senate, the Stanback-Stroud Diversity Award recognizes one California community college faculty member each year who has shown outstanding commitment to diversity. “It publicly acknowledges the individual who performs in an exceptional manner to advance intercultural harmony, equity, and campus diversity by making exceptional contributions to the college beyond usual obligations.”

The 2010 recipient, Nick Arnold, also a nominee for the Rice Award from the State Chancellor’s office, is a one-person department of Engineering at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC), where he has taught for eight years. He was previously with Alan Hancock College (AHC) for six years. His selection as this year’s recipient of the Stanback-Stroud Diversity Award was based on his long-term commitment to diversity and equity both in and out of the classroom.

Outstanding among his achievements is his work with these programs:

California Mathematics and Sciences Teacher Initiative. Recruited and mentored students as interns in the sciences and mathematics to be part of this University of California program.

Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). He promoted among students the formation of a local chapter of this national organization, and continues to be their advisor.

Internships in Nanosystems, Science, Engineering and Technology (INSET). Nick leads this summer institute at our local University of California (UC) campus every year. He recruits students from our local region community colleges and from the UC campus itself.

Mathematics, Science, Engineering Achievement (MESA) Program. Nick was instrumental in establishing the MESA program, at both SBCC and AHC.

Engineering Program. Nick has consolidated the Engineering program at Santa Barbara City College. His Engineering 101 class is a powerful introduction for students to explore a career in this area.

Nick is a proud recipient of the Stanback-Stroud Diversity Award and was glad to participate in a short interview:

Congratulations! You must feel honored to receive this prestigious award.
I am indeed honored.

What are you most proud of in your efforts toward diversity?
I am most proud of establishing the MESA (Mathematics, Science, Engineering Achievement) program, at both SBCC and AHC, which provides help to approximately 100 underrepresented, first generation students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields each year at each college. I also helped to start a SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers) student chapter, and a SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science) student chapter—SHPE is geared toward engineering job placement and SACNAS is geared to advanced degrees.

Are you optimistic about community colleges in California?
Yes, our disadvantaged, underpowered groups are getting more attention. Programs like MESA are important. Our school is close to becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution, which will help us.

But I’m scared that the recent influx to community colleges of students who are turned away from the UCs and the California State Universities (CSU) will push out the students from underpowered backgrounds that we have served for so many years.

Do you have a good relationship with you neighbor, UC Santa Barbara?
Yes, we have a fabulous relationship—they have been very generous with resources and advice.

How about your feeder schools? Do you have good relationships with them?
I am a little disappointed that we don’t have better connections with our high schools. They push their students towards the four-year schools, but we know that students who come to community colleges first are likely to do better in the long term. The stats are clear that our transfer students outperform their counterparts at the four-years.

Are you thinking about courses in sustainability?
Yes, we are thinking about a sustainability program, but it’s tough because the four-year schools haven’t firmed up their programs yet. This means that we can’t articulate courses that we might offer. Our students don’t have the luxury of taking classes that won’t meet requirements at their transfer schools. We do have a Sustainability Club and a Student Leaders in Science Club that is working on a green house project and is making biofuel.

What else have you been working on?
A Staff Development Workshop on “How to Help a More Diverse Group of Students in the Classroom” that will happen every year for new faculty. The workshop emphasizes using Active Learning Strategies, which are known to help a more diverse set of learning styles. The workshop utilizes a video that I am happy to share with everyone.

Are you happy with your workshop?
Yes, it feels great to share teaching strategies that are more inclusive, but it is also important to know who else on campus is supportive of diversity.

What effect will the Stanback-Stroud award have on you and your school?
More attention! We may have industry donations, and the award will bring more focus on diversity with our school.

Thanks for your time and energy with this interview, and congratulations again.
A tireless advocate for diversity and equity in our schools, Regina Stanback-Stroud was glad to share some ideas about the current state of California Community Colleges particularly with respect to budget issues and their effect on our under-represented student populations:

The Stanback-Stroud Diversity Award has done a lot to draw attention to the great work for diversity and equity by California Community College faculty across the state. You must be very proud that the award is so successful.
Yes. I’m very glad that attention is being drawn to some of the good work that faculty and staff are doing throughout the system. It is important that we as educators figure out how to equitably serve all of our students.

Are you optimistic about equity and diversity in our Community Colleges?
Yes, I want to be, but the challenges are enormous. The issues are more compelling in these times. Consider now the cumulative effect of all of the various movements afoot. There is a conflation of forces which is leading to systemic and systematic exclusion of major groups of students, specifically black and brown students.

Do you think that the budget reductions have a disproportional effect on our underrepresented populations?
I think the ways in which the system as a whole—including campuses across the state—have responded to the budget reductions will have a disproportionate impact on students of color. Race and class are inextricably linked, so the effect is not only on students of color but poor people in general. The brilliance of the Master Plan was to create a system whereby education would not be reserved for the elite, but instead anyone with the ability to benefit from an education could and would be able to have access to an education. The problem is that the voting public seems to be seriously questioning the importance of supporting public education. At precisely the time that the state no longer has a majority population of any one group, there is a chorus of voices questioning whether money should be allocated. I believe there will be serious consequences to the State’s retreat from public education.

What specific consequences for the community colleges are you thinking of?
Consider the following: (1) budget constraints are limiting access to classes and services, (2) categorical programs that were created in the context of civil rights have been deconstructed through defunding, (3) there is a movement to require standardized placement testing across the state, (4) there is a concurrent movement to require students to go into the basic skills sequence before taking classes that are typically gateways to degree attainment, (5) the plan to limit noncredit education is underway ,(6) regulations are being proposed to remove the requirement to empirically validate prerequisites and ensure they are established in a way that is fair and unbiased, and (7) CSU redirects are showing up to campus in force. All of these factors together will have the effect of displacing and marginalizing students of color.

How about questions of pedagogy and its impact on our diverse student populations? For example, Nick Arnold talks about Active Learning, which, in practice, means that he never talks for more that 15 minutes at a time without student participation.
Yes, I do believe the answer to increasing student success includes implementing practices of critical pedagogy. Again, doing so will help all students. But we need to think better about professional development and ensuring faculty and staff have access to strategies for increasing success. A lot of practices that have promise are emerging, but faculty need real support. For example, in one of our learning communities we put a counselor and a tutor in the classroom. While it might be a strategy to serve diverse students, in reality all students benefit from these efforts.

Do you think that community colleges have done enough to push back against the budget hawks and the no-taxers?
Absolutely not. In fact, I know the budget is created in the midst of negotiations between the system, organizations, lawmakers, and the various offices that support the legislative infrastructure. This budget that decimated the categorical programs did not come from out of the blue. I believe it was put on the table by our advocates. I believe that our leadership organizations and system representatives walked over and put these items on the table. I believe it was part of the deal making. This was a budget crisis that was used as an opportunity to accomplish a long-standing agenda. Forces in our system have been trying to de-categorize the categoricals for decades—all in the name of flexibility. There has been an ongoing cry for relief of mandates. Well the budget crisis came along and, poof, civil rights programs are cut, the remaining money can now be used in a “flexible” way and we have a relief of mandates in those programs.

Amazing, but it doesn’t have to end this way. I am placing my hope in the many faculty and staff who are doing great work to equitably serve students. So yes, that means to me that the Stanback Stroud Diversity Awards represent the hope and the struggle that must continue.

Thanks for your thoughts, and your fine example as a committed educator!

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