Category: Multicultural Competency


There were many moments over the past week that provided individual growth for colleagues, students, and me. While “individual” is emphasized, growth is something we often do together, especially through our relationships.

Curiosity also is a key ingredient for growth. When discussing Piaget, W.C Crain stated, “Children develop not because they are shaped through external reinforcements but because their curiosity is aroused. They become interested in information that does not quite fit into their existing cognitive structures and are thereby motivated to revise their thinking.” As professors, we know increasing curiosity with others opens the door to deeper learning.

Last week, curiosities were heightened before and during a “Teach In” that focused on social justice. We were invited to attend engaging sessions by faculty and a presentation by the keynote speaker, Dr. Jonathan Kozol, entitled, Savage Inequities: The Struggle Goes On. Some of the sessions were standing-room-only events. In a room filled beyond capacity, there were moments you could have heard a pin drop when Dr. Marco Turco was sharing Lessons From Apartheid South Africa, lessons based on his experience of living in South Africa during that time. Butterly Blaise and Dinai Robertson presented on, Intersectionality of Identity on a College Campus.  Group work around intersectionality engaged individuals from many levels of the college in conversations about assumptions and the absolute necessity of getting to know others on a deeper level. Think about this by expanding the metaphor of walking in someone else’s shoes and understanding that she/he has more than one pair of shoes. Many faculty and staff contributed to the success of the Teach In, creating a proud moment for SUNY Plattsburgh that was captured in a group picture by the pond.


Often, it is not an overpacked room with an expert speaker who helps you see the world in a new way or even a small classroom where individual growth might be easier to achieve, rather, it is one-on-one interactions. As a student walked into my office last week asking to drop a class, my intuition told me to ask, “How are you doing?” More than an hour later, the world looked different to both of us. I had a number of individual meetings with students over the past week where deep discussions lead to new understanding, renewed motivation, and steps to obtainable goals. I came away asking how we can be more intentional about taking time to do this individual work because it is imperative to the success of many students. While advisement provides a platform for these discussions, it is not enough to meet the day-to-day needs of our students.

Growing as a community of life-long learners, where we spend the extra time to do the individual work, for us and our students, ensures a brighter future for everyone. This is a daily approach to our work that can be energizing if done mindfully. This energy can come from a place of joy.


In The Book of Joy, a recently published book containing conversations between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, there is a passage about helping others that says, “The more we turn toward others, the more joy we experience, and the more joy we experience, the more we can bring joy to others.” Joy can be a powerful motivator for our collective work. So, here’s to another week where we have more opportunities to embrace and inspire curiosity in an inclusive learning environment and to create moments of joy from growth in ourselves, our students, and our learning community.

Bonus:  Here is the short video about intersectionality that was shown in the session mentioned above.  Please take the time to watch it if this is a new concept for you.

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted
– Lifelong Learning/Growth
– Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
– Social Justice
– Helping Students Achieve Goals
– Collaboration
Book of Joy image(n.d.) Retrieved October 30, 2016 from:

Curiosity Image (n.d.) Retrieved October 30, 2016 from:

Group Picture: SUNY Plattsburgh Facebook

W.C. Crain (1985). Theories of development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.


Growing up on a farm in the Midwest, the sun would rise and set with life-giving energy to seeds in a rich soil that were planted and nurtured with the sweat of my father’s brow and the faith in his heart. Faith that the sun would not bring days that were too hot and faith that passing clouds would release gentle rains. There was an optimal environment for growth that led to a bountiful harvest. There were years when drought or violent storms would destroy crops and bring times of sacrifice and rebuilding.

Over the years, the environment has changed and farmers have had to adapt with different types of seeds that grow disease resistant crops and irrigation systems that combat drought. Generations-old traditions have changed and creative adaptions have been embraced for farms to survive. This “way of the land” is similar in many ways to our academic environment and how we must adapt.

As we work with our students, we plant the seeds of knowledge and provide experiences that will result in optimal growth. The environment we create for growth requires the sweat of our brow and faith in our students as we inspire their best efforts. We nurture inner souls and challenge growth of the mind. Our collective efforts will make a positive difference for our students, their families and for our society if we do our jobs well. The students and our society are not the same as they were years ago and we, too, must adapt in order to survive.

The number of opportunities before us are endless as our adaptation results in revised and new curricula, new programs, and new delivery models. We cherish learning in our students, but also in ourselves as periodic storms in the education system come and go. These storms are represented by changes in enrollment, in budgets, regulation, and some might even say in pedagogy. These present opportunities that strengthen our will for the love of learning.

Over the last week, I attended three events where adaptation and change were focal points in the discussions. One was a gathering of North Country Thrive leaders along with Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of SUNY and Mary Ellen Elia, Commissioner of Education in New York State. The discussions targeted how our community can come together in better ways to support cradle to college/career development of students.


Another event was a regional gathering of teachers, principals, superintendents, college faculty, and administrators who were lead by the Chancellor and Commissioner in discussions to address local challenges and opportunities, as well as improvement in our education system at the State level.

Finally, I attended a How Do We Become More Comfortable panel discussion that was hosted by Black Onyx where deep and meaningful discussions were held about improving relationships between racially diverse students and students and faculty who are white.  Creating the best environments for education for everyone at all levels of the system will require new neuronal pathways to be developed, something that happens best with collaborative models, deep relationships, and persistent effort.

Each of the aforementioned events was powerful and transformative with ongoing work that will lead to positive changes; each event was attended in its entirety by President Ettling.

 Evidence of Success: SUNY Plattsburgh Alumns

There was evidence of great success over alumni weekend when I spoke with recent SUNY Plattsburgh graduates. Annette Romano (’86) National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT), teacher at Niskayuna CSD and Co-Director, National Board Council of New York, was at the regional event with the Chancellor and Comissioner.


Annette Romano (’86) on the left.  Also pictured is Amanda Zullo, NBCT chemistry teacher at Saranac Senior High School and recent recipient of an atward at the Whitehouse from President Obama for Excellence in Science and Mathematics.

Lateef Wearrien (’16), who is working on his Master’s degree at University at Buffalo in Student Affairs and Higher Education, led the How Do We Become More Comfortable panel discussion.


Edmund Adjapong (‘12) graduated with a degree in biochemistry and is currently working on his Doctorate at Teacher College, Columbia University; his words of leadership in the How Do We Become More Comfortable panel discussion were powerful.  He also uses Hip Hop in the classroom to engage learning.


Josh Modeste (’16), graduated with his BA (Biology)/MST in Teacher Education is currently teaching in New York City, was at the How Do We Become More Comfortable panel discussion too. Seeing the success of these former students was rewarding beyond measure and represented a harvest that feeds the masses.  Each is a powerful agent of positive change in our society.


Speaking with Josh Modeste is Randi Randi Weingarten, President of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers.  She visited Sarah Hackett’s class last year.

As we work collaboratively to meet the challenges and opportunities before us and to create optimal learning environments for students to become positive agents of change, we do so with sweat on our brows and faith in our hearts for the bountiful harvest that is students’ success. Be the sunshine and the gentle rain.

Bonus: Here is an abstract from an article recently published by Edmund Adjapong:


chancellor-an-maria                          Maria Veloz, Teacher Education major, with Chancellor Zimpher


EHHS Shared Values Highlighted:
–  Lifelong Learnning/Growth
–  Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
–  Helping Students Achieve Goals
–  Collaboration


My profession as a Speech-Language Pathologist motivated me to deepen knowledge about people so diagnostic and therapeutic processes could be more meaningful and impactful for individuals I see in the clinic.  Deepening knowledge of others is important in my role as a professor and a Dean too. Dignity and respect are felt at a deeper level when other people feel like I “get them” and empathize with their journey in life. Over the years, my intentional reading and my work have given me greater access to the hearts and minds of people who experience life, on a daily basis, in ways that are different from me. Having done this work in the areas of ability, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, race, religion, and gender equality, I have developed knowledge that helps me understand multiple identities.  I understand the privileges I have and am motivated to keep learning so I can use my privilege to help others.

Over the past 8 months, I’ve taken an intentional journey to deepen my knowledge of what it means to be Black in America. While not the beginning of this journey, I decided to start a deep dive from a historical perspective in 1853 with Solomon imageNorthrup’s detailed account about being kidnapped as a free man and forced into slavery (I had not seen the movie 12 Years A Slave because I find some things too hard to watch). This was a powerful book that detailed the pain and indignity of what it is like when your body is not your own. Even today, some feel like their bodies are not their own due to societies inequities, particularly in moments of unjust authority. Consequently, the words from our national anthem “O’er the land of the free” do not have the same meaning for everyone in our country given unequal treatment.

I then read John Howard Griffin’s 1961 book, Black Like Me. This book details the journey of a white man who transformed himself in various ways to appear black. He imagetraveled through the Deep South in the era of Jim Crow and then wrote about the way he was treated due to the color of his skin. As was all too often true when reading these books, while historical, there were many statements that resonated today. One such statement in the book grabs the reader, “He cannot understand how the white man can show the most demeaning aspects of his nature and at the same time delude himself into thinking he is inherently superior. To the Negro who sees this element of the white man—and he sees it much more often than any other—the white man’s comments about the Negro’s alleged ‘immorality’ ring maddeningly hollow.” While it’s hard to believe what was happening in the country the year I was born, it’s harder to believe what is still happening now.

The next book I read (after a segue through Toni Morrison’s new book, God Help the imageChild), was Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2013 book entitled, Between the World and Me; he was honored at the Whitehouse last week, along with Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, as one of the top 25 disruptive leaders in America. The book was written as an open letter to his teenage son and shares the heart and soul of a parent who struggles with the fact that his child is growing up in a society where liberty and justice for all is something in a pledge, but that the pledge “rings maddeningly hollow.”

I am currently reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (2010). I have no words for how this book has transformed my understanding of our criminal justice imagesystem. The justice system in our country, in many ways, has been and currently is an injustice system. More of our citizens are in jail than any other country in the world. The significant increase is a result of The War On Drugs, an initiative that resulted in harsh mandatory sentencing. There was a disproportionate number of African Americans arrested as a result of this initiative. Alexander stated, “Studies suggest that white professional’s may be the most likely of any group to have engaged in illegal drug activity in their lifetime, yet they are the least likely to be made criminals.”

Once released from prison, not unlike the Jim Crow era, the individual is not allowed to vote or receive many benefits afforded other citizens – relegated to the all-too-familiar position in society as a second-class citizen.


Given my life experience, what I’ve read in recent months, and what is happening in our country, you may appreciate I had a lot to think about when sitting on the steps in the Angell College Center during a protest with others holding a Black Lives Matter sign. Until there is equality, the phrase “all lives matter” “rings maddeningly hollow.”  I also was at the Black Lives Matter forum with more than 500 people in attendance. It was a powerful evening that represented SUNY Plattsburgh well. I care deeply about our students, as do the faculty, staff, and administrators who were at the forum. I particularly want students from groups that might feel marginalized to know we care and to know that I will continue to do all I can to make sure we have an equitable and just community in which to live and learn.

Bonus: This is an important article I shared with my faculty at the beginning of this academic year. It is entitled, “What Does A genuine Commitment To Diversity Look Like?

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted:
 Lifelong Learning/Growth
 Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
 Social Justice


Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow. New York, NY: The New Press.

Coates, T. (2015). Between the world and me. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau.

Griffin, J.H. (2010). Black like me. New York: NY, Signet.

Morrison, T. (2015). God help the child. New York, NY: Knopf, Borzoi Books.

Northrup, S. & Gates, H.L. (2013). 12 years a slave. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Cardinal Points image (Sept. 30, 2016). Photograph by Konrad Odhiambo.

Incarceration Images (n.d.) Retrieved October 1, 2016 from

Equity and Grit: Our Responsibilities


Two years ago, I wrote about “grit” in a blog entitled, A Critical Key to Students’ Success that included the above graphic.  I encouraged instructors to find ways to have discussions with advisees by exploring challenges and supporting growth.  Grit is a perfectly fine concept and we each apply different levels of it in our lives to achieve goals.  Some of us have to work harder than others in certain areas due to not winning a genetic lottery that would allow ease with learning a skill or body of knowledge.  There are additional barriers to consider beyond innate ability, which would result in a third frame in the above graphic where the person does not have a bike.

My understanding of grit has deepened by looking through the lens of equity.  Aisha Sultan, in her article, The Limitations of Teaching ‘Grit’ in the Classroom stated, “The transformative potential in growth mindsets and social-emotional skills such as grit may be more applicable to students whose basic needs are already met.”  The author quoted Tyrone Howard, Associate Dean for equality and inclusion at UCLA, who stated, “The conversation about growth mindsets has to happen in a social and cultural context, because cultural, institutional, and historical forces have an effect on individuals.”  He also said, “We are asking students to change a belief system without changing the situation around them.”


There are mindsets and belief systems so deeply ingrained in systems that the dominant culture is often blinded to their presence; Robin DiAngelo’s article and video  have helped us bring this into focus.  As professors, we see grit and determination as essential tools to success in college and often help our student discover deeper levels of these personal qualities to be successful.  We are invited by cultural shifts, however, to step back and examine this belief system through the lens of equity and to develop approaches that increase students’ success.  We have the opportunity to use our privilege by giving a hand to those who are reaching for it.  I am proud of the ability and professional development I have observed in many EHHS faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh over the last academic year to support students’ success.

We understand there are students who have not had the advantages of others.  Reflection on this deepens our understanding about how inequity affects the learning environment.  If there were equity, students would enter your classrooms with potential reserves of grit you could tap and develop equally to improve learning.  This is not a current reality in our society and results in several questions when considering an increasingly diverse student population.

  1. Does our academic system have the right supports in place to bring as much equity as possible to the academic learning environment?
  2. Whose responsibility is it to help us recognize our “blind spots” related to equity?
  3. What is a professor’s responsibility in the classroom to both equity and equality?
  4. How do we best guide students who are not successful, even when there are supports for equity and when fairness in the classroom is evident?
  5. What responsibility does a professorate from the dominant culture have to reexamine and evolve teaching approaches to meet an increasingly diverse student population and society?

Society’s playing field is not level for many groups within our society, but supports across the college and within classrooms can help mitigate inequity and support success.  This is a collective responsibility that will afford students better access to and use of grit.  The closer we get to this higher standard, the closer we come to accessing the true potential of all professors and students.



    EHHS Shared Values Highlighted

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • Demonstrated awareness, knowledge, and skills
  • Culturally responsive teaching
  • Self-reflection
  • Caring attitude
  • Courage to discuss sensitive issues and “sit with discomfort”
  • Continued learning, challenging and changing of our attitudes

Social Justice

  • Recognize social justice issues
  • Advocate to enhance social change
  • Enhance community responsibility/social responsibility


DiAngelo, R. (2011). White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3 (3) pp 54-70.

Sultan, A. (2015). The limitations of teaching ‘grit’ in the classroom. The Atlantic Journal. Retrieved  April 17, 2016 from:

Goals Image (n.d.) Retrieved April 17, 2016 from:

Equity image (Oct. 2015). Retrieved April 17, 2016 from:

Liberation Image (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2016 from



A House is Not a Home

SUNY Plattsburgh sign

At the end of life, and for those who are wise during life, material possessions have little meaning.  There is a wisdom that sees into the soul of the self and the souls of others where true meaning is found through relationships.  The title to this blog comes from an old song.  It struck me last week that it applies to some of the recent strife around the country at various colleges and universities about equality and how some students feel living on their campuses including our own.  While institutions of higher learning have many facilities to enhance the daily experience of students and faculty, what really matters is the depth of our relationships.  This is what brings true meaning, passion and purpose to life; it’s what makes our college a home for our students.

Those of us who work at the college feel it is our academic home, often spending more “awake time” on campus than in our homes.  Our students make the college their home for long periods of time.  What kind of home do we want to create for all of our students?  What can we do to make our campus a home in the truest way, where people are comfortable with and celebrated for being themselves?  The answers to these questions will create a positive academic learning environment that will inspire maximal learning for all students and a positive work environment for all faculty.

Learning new information in multiple forums on diversity over the past few weeks was intellectually enlightening and often moved the heart, but unless the information is incorporated into our daily lives through deeper relationships, the heart will not experience long-lasting change.  This speaks to the importance of our relationships, to the importance of pushing beyond comfort zones and to the importance of creating opportunities for people to come together in new ways.  It also means taking advantage of many opportunities that already exist to enter into new groups and conversations.  Embracing new relationships with others who are not like you, colleagues and students, is a privilege afforded to everyone on campus.


Gandhi said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” While it is important not to wait, the work of bringing diverse groups closer together is work we all must do as individuals and as a community.  How will our students be prepared to work in an increasingly diverse world if we don’t do this?  The sculpture of two people shaking hands in the Amity Plaza represents friendship between the US and Canada.  I like to think that the sculpture’s meaning can be expanded to symbolize a coming together, an amity of all people on campus from diverse cultural backgrounds.

While we must all come together as a community to improve equity and a sense of belonging, it is crucial to know that it is not the responsibility of those from underrepresented cultures to change the dominant culture.  Robin DiAngelo, author of the journal article entitled White Fragility that was shared in my last blog wrote, “Since all individuals who live within a racist system are enmeshed in its relations, this means that all are responsible for either perpetuating or transforming that system. However, although all individuals play a role in keeping the system active, the responsibility for change is not equally shared. White racism is ultimately a white problem and the burden for interrupting it belongs to white people (Derman-Sparks & Phillips, 1997; hooks, 1995; Wise, 2003)” (p. 66).  If you are part of the dominant culture, your privilege will not excuse you from doing this work, especially if you feel no responsibility to help. If you are part of a non-dominant culture, your help will be needed.  The opportunity exists for dominant and non-dominant allies to come together and develop approaches to lead the way.  As a community, we must create a psychological space where it is safe for all to grow together.  President Ettling believes SUNY Plattsburgh can be known as the model for doing this work well and I agree.

We all have a responsibility, if we are going to live and work well together in our academic home and the home of our students, to go deeper and do more.  After attending multiple diversity forums and Safe Space training over the past few weeks, this responsibility has taken on renewed meaning for me.  It is from my place of privilege that I did not know about the inequities and the depth of our underrepresented students’ feelings; this also is true in relation to our LBGTQ students.  It is reasonable to say that many did not know and some still may not believe, but it is true; defensiveness and denial cannot dispute the facts.  What is our responsibility to make our house a home?  What will you do today?

A few suggestions from your colleagues for things you can do:

  1. Complete a two week rotation (4 classes) in INT303 A or B Examining Diversity through Film
  2. Start a book reading group linking the messages in the book with current day occurrences. DuBois’ “Souls of Black Folks” is an example of classic literature that could garner some worthwhile discussion.
  3. Attend a CDPI Film Series film and WRAP Session
  4. Attend Safe Space training (Coming to EHHS faculty in the spring) or become a Safe Space trainer
  5. Form a group of professors who are used to having difficult discussions in class and develop a best practices document and some training through the Center for Teaching Excellence.
  6. Do a quick write in class where students share a few of their struggles and ways you can be supportive.

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted

Respect and Empathy

  • Seek to understand before being understood
  • Listening to each other
  • Communicate with the person, not about the person, when there is conflict
  • Enter into differences of opinion and conflict with respect
  • Demonstrate compassion to evoke potential in students and colleagues
  • Share our challenges as well as our successes
  • Trust
  • Open-mindedness,
  • Embrace diversity of opinions and perspectives

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • Demonstrated awareness, knowledge, and skills
  • Culturally responsive teaching
  • Self-reflection
  • Caring attitude
  • Courage to discuss sensitive issues and “sit with discomfort”
  • Continued learning, challenging and changing of our attitudes

Social Justice

  • Recognize social justice issues
  • Advocate to enhance social change
  • Enhance community responsibility/social responsibility

Amity Plaza Image (n.d.) Retrieved November 11, 2015 from:

DiAngelo, R. (2011). White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3 (3) pp 54-70.

Plattsburgh Sign Image (Sept. 28, 2010). Retrieved November 11, 2015 from:


Mr. Wilson

“In 1889 the New York State Legislature established in Plattsburgh a school for the education of teachers, the New York State Normal and Training School.  Two years later the first three students graduated from the institution that would one day evolve into SUNY Plattsburgh”  (2007 Middle States PRR report).  The motto for the college is, “A Proud Past, A Strong Future.”  I thought about our past and this motto in the context of an open forum I sat in last week that addressed an offensive cartoon published by an independent, student-run newspaper (i.e., There was no editorial role by a faculty member before the paper was published due to first amendment rights).  The paper wounded and exposed deeper wounds, some of which are caused by institutional racism in our society, and, as a result, has served as a catalyst for understanding and a call to action.  The standing-room-only forum was held by the Black Student Union, AKEBA, to discuss what happened.  So many things crossed my mind and touched my heart at the forum and I will share a few.

I thought about:

  • James Augustus Wilson (pictured above), who began his studies in teacher education at our college in 1898 and was the first African American to attend and graduate from our college. He was an alum who went on to get a second bachelor’s degree in divinity at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and eventually worked with Booker T. Washington (Skopp, 1989);
  • LaVerne Baker, one of my mentors, who was one of two African American women to be the first to graduate with Ph.D.s from my alma mater, Wichita State University; if you have been in my office, you have seen her picture on my desk;
  • how Mr. Wilson and Dr. Baker would each define current events and what has and has not changed in the last 117 years;
  • my white privilege and the period of my younger life when I was naive to it, something that is the case for many young, white college students and on another level by others who are not so young in our community;
  • the voices from all underrepresented groups that need to be present to have a complete conversation about equality and social justice because there are differences in the struggles of each group (i.e., one group does not speak for all groups);
  • the young men of Delta Sigma Phi who I sat with at the forum as a faculty advisor, who have one of the more racially diverse groups on campus and a shared value of diversity –  I saw the pain in their eyes and felt it in their hearts;
  • how the members of AKEBA, the Black Student Union, modeled how to have difficult conversations that value the need to feel uncomfortable while maintaining everyone’s dignity; and
  • how I loved the gathering of diverse students at the forum, a sentiment that went beyond racial diversity, but hated the reason we were there.

That is a sampling of a few thoughts I had during the forum, but I also had another thought that night that centered on what I shared in our EHHS Community Gathering at the beginning of this semester.  It was during that gathering that I discussed the New Civil Rights Movement.  I highlighted words from Gyasi Ross, a Native American from the Blackfeet Nation who is an author, speaker, lawyer and storyteller.

Gyasi Ross

Here are the words I shared from Gyasi Ross (2015):

  • “If folks truly want to be allies then they’re going to have to get cool with uncomfortable conversations.”
  • “White folks don’t ever want to talk about race.  It will ALWAYS be jarring, it will ALWAYS be disruptive and it will ALWAYS be inconvenient. Yet, we have to do it.”
  • “If they truly wish to be an effective ally, then they should WANT to feel the discomfort that we feel when we’re constantly confronted with questions of race.”

There was a lot of discomfort felt over the past week, and this is a good thing.  Looking back, Gyasi Ross’ words were the most powerful words I shared at the beginning of the semester that have defined where we are now in the conversations taking place on campus.  I am pleased that the conversations have resulted in the actions detailed by our President that will enhance the caring environment we value at SUNY Plattsburgh.

I look forward to leaning into more discomfort and invite everyone else to lean with me because I know this is the place where we all grow.  We do have a proud past at SUNY Plattsburgh.  We also are engaged in conversations to know better and actions to do better that create a powerful present and a strong future.

Crucial Reading: This article from the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy is your opportunity to lean into the conversation with me: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Maya Do better 2

                                                EHHS Shared Values Highlighted

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • Demonstrated awareness, knowledge, and skills
  • Culturally responsive teaching
  • Self-reflection
  • Caring attitude
  • Courage to discuss sensitive issues and “sit with discomfort”
  • Continued learning, challenging and changing of our attitudes

Social Justice

  • Recognize social justice issues
  • Advocate to enhance social change
  • Enhance community responsibility/social responsibility


DiAngelo, R. (2011). White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3 (3) pp 54-70.

Maya Angelou Image (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2015 from

Middle States Commission on Higher Education Periodic Review Report (2007).

Ross, G. (2015):

Skopp, D. (1989). Bright with promise: From the normal and training school to SUNY Plattsburgh. Norfolk, Virginia: The Donning Company/Publishers.




There are a limited number of minutes in a semester, 158,400 as of today, and they seem to go faster this time of year.  It may feel like we have come “full circle” from the beginning of the semester where our aspirations were high and learning objectives were set, to the close of another semester where we race harder to fulfill the aspirations and objectives.  But, “full circle” does not really capture the reality of higher education, at least I hope not.

Each semester provides us with the opportunity for continuous improvement, a deepening spiral rather than a circle, that allows for exercising a growing expertise in developing our students into the citizens who will be responsible for our world.  Some may chose to go in circles, but the future depends on deepening spirals of continuous learning.  How can you set a trajectory that deepens this spiral for yourself and for your students?

If students know we truly care about them and are passionate about their learning, then they will remember more of what we model and say.  They also will be more engaged in their own learning process.  There are, of course, times when some tough love is needed and the ear of procrastination and laziness need a good twist, actions appreciated later by students who look back and attribute part of their success to you.

The spiral deepens on many pathways to the mind and a better future.  The heart’s path seems to be the widest and most direct.  It is on this path, best when traveled together, that critical elements of dignity are found.  I shared part of a TED Talk with you at the beginning of the semester by Donna Hicks that highlighted the essential elements of dignity.  I share these again, particularly in the context of the world for which we prepare our students.

  • Acceptance of Identity – when we honor someone’s dignity, we accept his/her identity.
  • Recognition – We give someone recognition of his or her unique qualities and way of life.
  • Acknowledgement – we make sure people feel seen, heard, listened to, and responded to.
  • Inclusion – The person feels a sense of belonging and a sense of community.
  • Independence – There is a feeling of freedom and a life filled with hope and possibility.
  • Safety – To honor someone’s dignity is to make sure s/he feels safe and secure. This includes psychological safety that prevents humiliation and feeling shamed or marginalized.
  • Fairness – Dignity requires fair and even-handed treatment [e.g., understanding dominance and privilege].
  • Understanding – We give someone the benefit of the doubt and seek understanding, especially from people we don’t naturally gravitate toward. We give someone space [i.e., suspend judgment] and time to explain his/her experiences.
  • Accountability – We are accountable for our behavior and must apologize when hurting someone’s dignity. Also, we all deserve an apology when someone does us harm.

Donna Hicks spoke to the power of dignity by saying, “Imagine for a moment if we honored these elements of dignity in our daily lives with the people with whom we come in contact.  Imagine what that would be like.  Imagine what our relationships would be like when everyone felt this way…seen, heard, identity was accepted, etc.  When we honor other people’s dignity, we strengthen our own.”

Collectively, the words of Martin Luther King Jr., the path to the mind through the heart, the need for occasional tough love, and the essential elements of dignity provide us with many tools to prepare ourselves and our students to make a positive difference in the world.  Recent headlines have highlighted racial tension across the country, loss of young lives due to hazing, and sexual assaults on college campuses; the list seemingly is inexhaustible.  It is more important than ever that we deepen our knowledge and strengthen the character of youth in ways that will result in a better world in which to live.  Characteristics that combat indignities, mindful dispositions if you will, are essential in addition to technical knowledge and skills needed to be successful in a profession.

The next two weeks will be filled with trying to fulfill aspirations envisioned at the beginning of the semester.  As you use your minutes wisely to engage students in deeper learning, make sure to touch the heart, maybe the ear, and the essential characteristics of dignity. Even in the remaining minutes of this semester, you can make a positive difference and touch the future through our students.


Mandela passion








Shared Values Highlighted:

  • Respect and Empathy
  • Excellence in Teaching
  • Lifelong Learning/Growth
  • Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
  • Helping Students to Achieve Goals
  • Professionalism
  • Broad-minded

Hicks, D. (April 4, 2014). Declare Dignity. Retrieved from

Image (May 28, 2014). Retrieved November 29, 2014 from:


The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed by President Johnson because underrepresented individuals, particularly in the south, were not allowed to vote (The United States Department of Justice).  Violence and intimidation prevented these individuals from exercising their constitutional rights as ratified in the 15th amendment of the US Constitution on February 3, 1870 (The Library of Congress, 2012).  This historical reality set the backdrop for a book I chose to read for Black History Month entitled, Freshwater Road  by Denise Nicholas.  In this book, a 20-year-old woman from Detroit decides to go down to the deep south in Mississippi to help with voter registration for African Americans.  For me, the overriding theme in the book is courage.  The author has the ability to make the reader feel, to the degree one can through reading, what it is like to walk in the front door of the courthouse to register to vote only to be confronted with a sheriff whose “laws” are based on fear and hate.  While the constitution gave her and others the right to vote, state and local Jim Crow laws prevented her from walking through the front door of the courthouse. 

I’ve been wearing a button on the lapel of my jackets that says, “I support Black History Month.”  These are not just words to me.  While this is Black History Month, I believe every month is social justice month.  I can provide a few examples from the past few weeks of how beliefs have been put into action.  At the EHHS accepted students day, a parent came up to me after the presentations and said his family had traveled to many college open houses and had seen many presentations.  He stated that our presentation was the best he had seen.  In addition to academic excellence in a supportive environment, one of the prominent themes throughout the presentation was the importance of diversity at SUNY Plattsburgh.  Preparing students to live and work in a diverse society was highlighted.  I talked about EHHS Shared Values with the audience and highlighted our commitment to being multiculturally competent.  I stated that we believed in our students being multiculturally competent and that it started with professors and staff being multiculturally competent.  Admissions staff spoke about the richness of diversity on our campus.  The diverse panel of students gave specific examples of how diversity on our campus has enriched their lives.  Values and experiences discussed during the presentation are in alignment with a statement by Stith-Williams and Haynes (2007), “Education cannot be divorced from its connection to emerging multicultural dynamics that shape the context of society in general and public education in particular.”

Beliefs have been put into action recently when speaking with diverse job candidates about the value SUNY Plattsburgh places on diversity.  Candidates were heartened by the commitment we have to multicultural competency in our shared values.  These individuals also were impressed that one of the goals in the college’s new strategic plan targets being multiculturally competent.  I talked about the success of our Education Opportunity Program and about findings in a national study by Nguyen, Wardbibo, and Engle, (2012) that places SUNY Plattsburgh as 21st in the nation for closing the gap between the graduation rates of African American students and white students; while both have improved over the past six years, graduation rates are now higher for African American students compared to white students.  

My life has been and continues to be enriched by the diversity of those around me.  Given this, I make sure there are many diverse people around me who feel free to point out gaps in my thinking.  While this blog has focused on one aspect of diversity due to a central topic of Black History Month, I honor diversity in its broad from.  A statement from the Center for Diversity, Pluralism, and Inclusion’s frequentl asked quesions webpage say is best:  “Is diversity only for people of color?   Answer: Yes, because all people have color!  When diversity initiatives only address the realities of one group, then they becom exclusionary and limiting.  We need all people understanding that no one awakens truly understanding everyone else’s reality.  A true understanding of other people’s reality is only arrived at through conversation and interaction” (Wiley, J.W. 2013).

I look forward to our conversations and interactions in the weeks to come.  May we each know courage that positively transforms the world for others and deepens knowledge of the self.


The Library of Congress. (2012). Primary documents in American History: 15th amendment to the Constitution. Retrieved from

Nguyen, M., Wardbibo, E., & Engle, J. (2012).  Advancing to completion: Increasing degree attainment by improving graduation rates and closing gaps for African-American students. Retrieved from  (See page 13)

Nicholas, D. (2005). Freshwater road. New York, NY: Pocket Star Books

Stith-Williams, V., & Haynes, P. (2007). FOR CULTURAL COMPETENCE: Knowledge, skills and dispositions needed to embrace diversity. Retrieved from

The United States Department of Justice (n.d.). The Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Retrieved from

Wiley, J.W. (2013). Center for Diversity, Pluralism, and Inclusion. Retrieved from

Image (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2013 from:

%d bloggers like this: