Global Diversity in a Community College Setting
Ranae Hanson has been teaching English at Minneapolis Community and Technical College for 23 years. Every one of those years has brought her something new.
“MCTC students are uniquely affected by what happens in their neighborhoods. Our student body changes as the population of people in our community changes," she said. "However, global events change the student body as well.” She recalls a new MCTC student in her one of her fall 2011 classes who had just come from Japan. The student was a refugee of the recent earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of Japan’s coastline.
Ranae spoke at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Conference in Baltimore, MD recently. She first worked with AAC&U as part of the Shared Futures initiative with MCTC in 2010, and received faculty development funding to participate in her first conference earlier in 2012. At the AAC&U conference in Baltimore this fall, she spoke about what “global” means to MCTC. “When some people talk about ‘global,’ they mean students who study abroad,” said Ranae. “To me, ‘global’ means worldwide issues we see on our campus: immigration, climate change, global economic patterns and culture loss. These are global issues we need to address that don’t fit into any one department.”
Ranae sees these issues every day at MCTC. “Campuses can’t take on global issues without looking at the diversity within their own campus.” MCTC, she said, is well-poised to talk about diversity because of its diverse population. “Some educational systems fail to think about the community origins of their student body,” Ranae said. “MCTC reflects the demographics, concerns and classes of its incredibly diverse geographic surroundings. This contributes to a campus that’s a little globe in itself.”
In one of her recent classes, Ranae watched as a dialogue about cultural symbols unfolded between east African and African-American students. “MCTC has students from around the world,” she said. “We are well-equipped to house an exchange of ideas between people of very different cultures who live in the same neighborhood.”
Some teachers might get weary after teaching at the same school for a long time. However, Ranae finds it invigorating. “Teaching introductory English keeps me grounded in the local scene.”
Published January 2013