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A model for higher ed diversity

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Michael Anthony, chief diversity officer at Oakton Community College in illinois, addresses a group of German educators on practical applications of diversity at the college.

Photo: Steve Repsys

Oakton Community College in Illinois is serving as a role model for potential enhancements to higher education — in Germany.

It’s usually the other way around, with community college leaders looking toward Europe, especially to Germany, on issues such as workforce training. But Germany’s educational climate is changing rapidly as more students – including many immigrants – come to campuses with varied backgrounds that differ from the traditional type of students German universities have long educated.

To help with such diversity issues, members of the German-American Fulbright Commission, charged with examining diversity management and inclusion at U.S. institutes of higher education, last month visited the Chicago area. Oakton was the only community college the delegation toured. (The group also visited the University of Illinois at Chicago, DePaul University, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.)

International Education Week, an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide, runs Nov. 16-20.

The delegation plans to analyze its gathered information to make recommendations to the German Higher Education System on what practical changes could be implemented. It chose Oakton because it belongs to the Institute of International Education, an organization that advances education and access to education worldwide. Also, the commission wanted to visit at least one community college on its trip to the Chicago area.

“We don’t have community colleges in Germany,” said Charlotte Securius-Carr, chief of German and special programs for the German Fulbright Commission. “We wanted to see a community college to see how it embraces diversity because it serves a variety of students.”

The delegation met with college vice presidents, followed by an hour-long forum that concentrated on diversity in the community college including climate, policies, procedures, context, assessment management and benefits. German educators also had the opportunity to pick the brains of administrators at a luncheon. The visit concluded with an open forum that invited staff, faculty and students to participate.

The U.S. State Department is accepting applications for its summer 2016 Critical Language Scholarship Program. It is focused on recruiting more community college students. 

The German delegation also toured the college’s science and health careers center, as well as the new enrollment center at the Des Plaines campus.

“We are all very impressed with Oakton and what it offers,” said Rostock University President Wolfgang Schareck, while touring the science center. “It’s very clear the college prides itself on its dedication to individuals and their education.”

“It takes a great deal of effort to see that students are successful in a diverse institute of higher learning,” Securius-Carr added. “Oakton is doing a great job in trying to achieve that goal and has served as an inspiration for us.”

Repsys is a public relations specialist at Oakton Community College (Illinois).

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