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Building multicultural competency

Recognizing Iowa’s changing demographics and the importance of multicultural competency, Drake’s School of Education has created the Social Justice in Urban Education (SJUE) concentration, launching this summer for both undergraduate and graduate students.

“It is vital we offer a program with a set of classes that speaks to the changes we’re seeing—not only in Iowa but across the country,” says Kevin Lam, assistant professor of urban and diversity education.

Students in the concentration will critically examine urban and suburban contexts to develop pedagogical knowledge and tools to help students succeed. The course materials emphasize understanding students of color, working-class students, immigrant students, and students from historically marginalized populations.

Lam, director of the SJUE concentration, joined the Drake faculty in 2012 and has a background in sociology, Asian American studies, and education policy.  Lam worked to build the new program with support from the Department of Teaching and Learning.

“This program will help students be reflective about who they are,” says Lam. “You have to know who you are in order to interact with students in a more meaningful and humble way.”

For more information on the concentration and its courses, contact Kevin Lam at kevin.lam@drake.edu or 515-271-2324.

One of the courses being offered this summer is Youth, Culture, and Society, which will explore the intersections between youth and consumerism, and youth and incarceration, among other topics. Additional issues that will be examined throughout the concentration include:

  • The social, political, and historical context of under-funded schools
  • The social, political, and historical context of poverty in urban areas
  • The concentration of immigrant students
  • The need for culturally-relevant curriculum
  • The need for teachers of color
  • Deficit-theorizing
  • Racism

“I have several goals for the program, one of them is to help students understand there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution,” says Lam. “I also hope that students are able to recognize and understand the achievement gap for students of color and the need for culturally-relevant teachers.”