Pacific Islander Group, Multicultural Center Win Brotman Awards

A networking group for Pacific Islander students and a graduate-level center for multicultural education received the 2003 Brotman Diversity Award June 12.

Named after UW Regent Jeffery Brotman, '64, '67, and his wife, Susan, the Brotman Diversity Award recognizes outstanding programs that advance diversity within the University community.

The Pacific Islander Partnership in Education (PIPE) fills a gap in cultural and educational support for Pacific Islanders at the UW. The UW has outreach programs to attract Pacific Islanders, but until PIPE, there wasn't much to support them as a culture once they were here.

In the spring of 2001, the program was launched to raise the graduation rates of Pacific Islander students through individual and group mentorship. But unlike other programs, PIPE members sought to incorporate traditional cultural values in their work. "PIPE is a place in school where native culture is valued rather than subtracted, where culture is a source of empowerment rather than merely a site of extracurricular activity," writes Rick Bonus, PIPE faculty mentor.

The UW has outreach programs to attract Pacific Islanders, but until PIPE, there wasn't much to support them as a culture once they were here.

The student-mentor relationship fostered by the program benefits all involved. Current mentors and mentorees comprise some of the UW's best students. They are National Bunche Fellows, McNair Fellows, student organization leaders and 4.0 students. They are "the most competitive applicants for top graduate schools," writes Bonus. Of 20 who initially participated in the mentor program, only two dropped out while the remainder showed improving grades.

The Center for Multicultural Education, the other award winning unit, is a graduate-level program in the College of Education that furthers understanding of diversity issues. "The center is dedicated to research and practice related to equality issues, intergroup relations and the achievement of students of color," writes Kerry Godes, the College of Education's director of development. "The center's mission is to ... ensure that all students have equal opportunities to learn, meet high standards and participate fully."

College of Education students are required to take at least two of the 27 classes the center offers such as: Multi-Ethnic Curriculum and Instruction, Teaching the Bilingual-Bicultural Student, and Teaching African American Students and Culture. In addition to the offered coursework, the center also holds a quarterly symposium-lecture series where researchers and scholars give talks related to racial, ethnic, lingual and cultural diversity.

The center was founded by UW Professor James Banks. Under his tutelage, the center is changing the way teachers and students think about issues of equality, ethnicity, social class and culture. Several UW professors have noted the importance and impact the center's symposium and lecture series has had on their own research and teaching. "[Students] viewed it as one of the ideal places on campus to reference for research, scholarship, discussions and programs that addressed the importance of diversity in schools and society," writes Professor Tyrone C. Howard, a former graduate student at the center and now with UCLA.

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