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Building Diversity into the Agricultural Studies Major The Stranger Assignment Costs and Benefits Nancy Grudens-Schuck and Michael S. Retallick Agricultural.

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Presentation on theme: "Building Diversity into the Agricultural Studies Major The Stranger Assignment Costs and Benefits Nancy Grudens-Schuck and Michael S. Retallick Agricultural."— Presentation transcript:

1 Building Diversity into the Agricultural Studies Major The Stranger Assignment Costs and Benefits Nancy Grudens-Schuck and Michael S. Retallick Agricultural Education and Studies Iowa State University ISCORE March 4, 2005

2 Course AGEDS 315 Leadership in Agriculture 100 students per year (25 students per section per semester) Agricultural Studies major in College of Agriculture, Iowa State University Iowa farm youth—mainly White, mainly young men.

3 Stranger Assignment Interview and visit meetings Oral or written reflections Readings and guest speakers Modeling respectful talk Since 1999: about 400 students Section 02: more than 300 students Section 01: 100 students

4 Purposes of Unit The “right thing” (i.e., diversity) needs to become “their thing” Move from silence to respectful talk about diversity Stay bounded: focus on groups and participation with regard to diversity Fun and games, please!

5 Prior Knowledge I am intimidated to meet new people of a different race. Where I grew up, there was only one individual that was of a different race, so different ethnicity groups was not something I was accustomed to. - White female student

6 Prior Knowledge When choosing someone to interview I was hoping I could find someone that was totally different than me: someone who knew little about agriculture, comes from a large city, and has a different perspective than me. White male student

7 Whom do they meet? African American student active in Society of Black Engineers Older couple from Puerto Rico who work in agricultural industry Multigenerational families of Mexican farm workers White South African student who grew up on a large farm High school aged youth with disability that requires use of a wheel chair

8 Initial Student Reaction to the assignment

9 I will be honest, at first I was not too keen on the project, but in the end it was well worth it. - “Jennifer*” - * All names are fictitious

10 I remember the day I received the diversity assignment in AgEds 315, my first thought was “I wonder if they will let me graduate without this class?” I was very reluctant to pursue this assignment because I didn’t honestly know a lot of minorities and it sounded like a lot of work. - “Kathy”

11 The interview was an eye opening experience for me. I had interview and been interviewed before but I found some butterflies in my stomach when I interview and spoken with my diversity interviewee. - “Danielle”

12 The assignment seemed a little strange to me at first, to be completely honest. I was skeptical, but very wrong. The assignment taught me that leadership has continuity cross-culture, while the main definition may be a bit different. - “Sean”

13 I had a difficult time contacting an individual that I could interview. How does one contact an individual they have never met and say ‘Hey, your different than me can I interview you.’ This was the most challenging aspect… - “Jan”

14 Benefits of Assignment according to the students

15 I came to realize that no matter how tough I think I have it, many people out there have gone through things a lot tougher. - “Evan”

16 It seemed that everyone else interviewed people that had a lot of the same interests as the people I hang around with. It made me wonder what really makes someone diverse from the rest of a group. Each of us is different in our own ways and somehow we find a way to single out some people and call them different. - “Joseph”

17 The This assignment made me think about my life and the diversity within it. Simply said-- my life isn’t that diverse. I spend the majority of time with those who had grown- up similar to me. The thing gained from this experience has to be my awareness of diversity and the lack there of in my surroundings and life. - “Jan”

18 In the long run I think this was probably one of the most beneficial assignments we could have had. We had to think about the differences we had with someone and figure out a way to get past it when we did not agree. - “Jennifer”

19 The knowledge I gained from the experience has helped me in my professional career. I have learned to respect differences, not fear them. For a class that was not very diverse in backgrounds (mostly farm kids with rural upbringings) this is a great assignment. - “Jennifer”

20 Impact of the Assignment according to the students

21 “After this interview, I began to look at myself differently.” - “Evan” “Her (an Asian national female student) responses were very disturbing to me.” – “Kathy” “I had heard stories like this on the news or read it in textbooks, but I had never been stared in the face with it.” - “Kathy”

22 This assignment personally shocked me and threw me into a global reality versus reality as an American, an Iowan. I realized my reality is very different from the majority of the world; the life I lead is luxury. - “Kathy”

23 The biggest thing that I learned was people who are supposedly different from us aren’t really that different at all. - “Joseph” Now I view the world and other people in a very different view. Now when I look at people, I seen an opportunity to meet someone with similar view and interests in each person. - “Joseph”

24 I think the whole class gained a lot more than they thought they were going to get our of it. I view the world and other people in a different view. Now when I look at people, I see an opportunity to meet someone with similar views and interests in each person. - “Joseph”

25 After graduation in May 2004 I took a job in Customer Service in Eastern Iowa. Each and every day I am faced with diversity issues. I really don’t believe that the college education really prepared me for that. The first time that I was introduced to diversity on the college level was this class. Please stress this in the future… (Continued)

26 It is extremely vital in the workplace for the future as America continues to be the place to go for the world. I feel that the simple assignment has impacted me for a lifetime. I am able to understand and communicate with the diversity better because I understand diversity as a whole and can transfer that to my day to day work and living experiences. - “Danielle”

27 This experience impacted me personally.... It showed me that some of the things I take for granted here in the US, such as speaking out in public, women in different cultures do not get the chance to do. - “Wendy”

28 This project has showed me that you can not judge people by the way they look, act or what they believe in. The theory that I have since this diversity project is that just because you are different does not mean that you are better. This was an eye-opening experience for me. - “Wendy”

29 I feel [the project] was all positive as I am now more open-minded towards different beliefs than I was previously. - “Wendy”

30 Overall, the diversity assignment does indeed have relevance... I think now the assignment may mean even more when I reflect back now rather than nearly a year ago. - “Sean”

31 Suggestions for Improvement

32 When I asked to interview “Mo”, he asked if it was because he was black. The sad thing is, that was exactly why I interviewed him. I am glad for the experience but it reaffirmed the idea that we are different. Asking me to interview a person with different race, sexual orientation or religion does nothing to break the idea of bigotry or bias… (Continued)

33 …Sure you spend time with this person and see things from their point of view, but the assignment says that they are different. They are not different, rather had different experiences in life. - “Evan”

34 Our Questions (1) Given the modest nature of the assignment, does the superficial or stereotypical understanding of a culture or race or religion make things better or worse? (2) What experiences before and after the Stranger Assignment would make it more powerful and long lasting? (3) How should the instructor manage the negative, biased talk that comes with ‘opening up’?

35 More Questions (4) Would more structure provide more learning? Or is the loose structure working? (5) Regarding reflection, what are trade-off’s between oral presentations and written papers? (6) How can we get more instructors to do this?

36 Thanks.

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