Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Sept. 26, 1997

New faculty bring variety of ethnic experiences

Eight new faculty will bolster diversity offerings

by Linda Charles

While other universities pay lip service to diversifying the curriculum, Iowa State is doing something about it, says one of the new faculty members hired to teach courses to meet the new diversity requirements.

"It may seem odd to say Iowa State University is at the forefront of the movement, but it is," said Jose Amaya, assistant professor of English. "A lot of schools I would expect to have diversified the curriculum, including Ivy League universities and leading research universities, have not.

"There's a real difference between acknowledging diversity and embracing and implementing it into the curriculum," Amaya added.

Four new positions created

Amaya, who joined the faculty this semester, is among new faculty who will help teach courses that fulfill two diversity requirements that went into effect for undergraduate students this semester. Four new faculty positions were created and funded by the Provost Office last year and another four will be added this year.

The new faculty will help teach some of the dozens of courses that will be available to students seeking to fulfill the diversity requirements. Students must earn three credits in course work that addresses human diversity in U.S. society and three credits in course work that provides an international context for the analysis of world conditions.

Provost John Kozak said the new positions, in addition to three similar positions filled previously, help bring diversity to the university in two ways. The new faculty teach and conduct research in multicultural areas, bringing new perspectives to the curriculum and campus. In addition, the new faculty tend to have experiences with a variety of ethnic communities.

Searches bring bonus

"I am delighted to welcome these people to the faculty," Kozak said. "They will bring wonderfully new perspectives to many disciplines and will help us fulfill the new curricular requirements approved by the faculty."

In addition to Amaya, Camilo Garcia, assistant professor of human development and family studies, and Lynne Paxson, assistant professor of architecture, have joined the faculty. The fourth position, in the department of anthropology, is expected to be filled sometime after the first of the year.

The search to fill one of the four new positions had an unexpected bonus.

"While conducting our search," said Mark Chidister, associate dean in the College of Design, "we identified two others who had significant experience working with populations of diverse backgrounds." Those two, Lesley Lokko, assistant professor of architecture, and Marie Rose Wong, assistant professor of community and regional planning, also were hired in tenure-track positions this semester.

Scholarship, social activism linked

Amaya will teach courses in Latino/a culture, literature and politics in the United States.

"I'm hoping non-Latino students will sign up for these courses," Amaya said. "I'm hoping to show the contributions and connections of U.S. Latino/as to those who are not of this culture."

Amaya's research focuses on U.S. Latino/a literature and citizenship. For example, he is examining how race and ethnicity affect citizenship. Earlier this year, Amaya noted, the citizenship of workers at an Iowa meat packing plant was questioned because they did not look like mainstream Americans.

"I still believe in a scholarly commitment to social activism," Amaya said. "I don't see it as apart from scholarship. One should lead to the other. Scholarship should lead to improvement."

Students prepare for globalization

Camilo Garcia also will draw upon his research in the courses he is teaching. He studies the social organization of immigrant workers and has conducted field work at 40 sites in the United States, Mexico and Europe.

Garcia will teach graduate and undergraduate courses on cross-cultural research methods, gender and ethnicity. He also will supervise students observing human services in Mexico and Europe.

"Through their professional activities, students will interact with people from different cultures," Garcia said. "They will gain an understanding of what it takes to cope with each other, and they will have an idea of what it will take to bring better services to different ethnic groups. The purpose is to prepare them for the globalization process they will encounter once they've graduated."

Diversity belongs in the mainstream

Paxson, who already had been with Iowa State in an adjunct position, will continue her course on Native American architectural history, and will include diverse issues in her architectural studio classes. She is assigned half time to the department of architecture and half time to the design studies program.

While Paxson's Native American course is listed among those that meet the diversity requirements, she would prefer to see diversity incorporated into mainstream courses at Iowa State.

"I don't want to see separate design classes that specialize in ethnic artists and designers or ethnic groups," she said. "Rather, I'd like to see places, practitioners and user groups, including women, people of color and 'non-Western' ideas and issues, taught as part of the regular design history and studio and seminar classes.

"There's a fine line between focusing on diversity and relegating it to the edges by pulling it out of the mainstream," she said.

Paxson's practice and research focuses on 'difference' and contested space. It involves people or behaviors considered marginal, atypical or unacceptable, such as teenagers skateboarding in public places or several groups claiming a place as 'theirs.' Paxson also brings an emphasis on American Indian or First Nations issues to her work.

Face of America changing

The faculty member who fills the joint appointment in the anthropology department and American Indian studies will teach two courses on Native American cultures and, occasionally, an introductory course in anthropology. He or she also will be an expert in Native American cultures and conduct research and outreach.

"It's important to recognize that the face of America is changing," Amaya said. "People are marrying people whose last names are unheard of in their families. As the culture changes, it enriches who we are. It's happening, here in Ames, in Des Moines, throughout the country and the world."

"That is the world we are preparing our students to work in and to shape," Kozak observed.

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