Fall 2014 Issue

The Politics of Diversity

America: the melting pot. Or is it more like a salad bowl? American culture is a mosaic of different peoples and personalities. It is a culture of diversity.

In her class Diversity in American Politics, Associate Professor of Political Science Michele DeMary uses a wide variety of approaches to enlighten her students about not only the diversity of today’s America, but also how this country came to have such a blended composition.

DeMary spends the first few weeks of her course on immigration policies throughout American history. The class trip to Ellis Island brings the relevance of immigration home for many students who, like DeMary, have had family members who crossed an ocean for a new life.

Another unique aspect of the class is the “respect pledge” DeMary requires everyone in the class to sign. Meredith Crane ’15, a political science major from Maplewood, N.J., says the pledge enabled the class to “[discuss] touchy topics that are often ignored in public settings … and openly state our ideas and views without being judged.” Without the fear of ridicule by their peers, students are able to participate more honestly and to learn more from one another.

Students leave the class with a lasting appreciation for the ongoing role of diversity in American politics and a new lens through which to view other cultures. “I’m studying abroad this fall, and I definitely feel it affecting how I view politics in Europe,” says Kristen Rice ’16, a business administration major from Danville, Pa.

The reverse is also true of students who fulfill their Global Opportunities (GO) requirement before taking the course. “The cross-cultural experiences of our students makes a class on diversity in U.S. politics even richer than before,” says DeMary, noting that students return to campus with a strong comparative perspective by which to assess U.S. policies. “Overall, their GO experiences make them better equipped to help the country navigate the challenges of respecting diversity in a democratic system of majority rule.”

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