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Updated 11:00 AM April 5, 2004



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Cantor Seminar: Small group tackles big topic

A large-scale topic provided a lengthy interchange during a recent seminar hosted by the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

"What is this big picture of institutional change?" queried Patricia Gurin, the Nancy Cantor Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Psychology and Women's Studies. "And how are institutions of higher education preparing students to be the next citizens in a diverse democracy?"

One question generated two hours of discussion in the "Education for a Diverse Democracy" doctoral seminar, which has been ongoing since the start of Winter Term. A gathering of more than a dozen doctoral students, representing six graduate programs, are enrolled in the seminar, which examines strategies for strengthening higher education for a diverse democracy.

Rackham Dean Earl Lewis and Barry Checkoway, professor of social work and urban planning, are co-instructors of the seminar with Gurin, and they chime in with themes, topics and thoughts during the three-hour weekly meeting.

The seminar is the second of three Cantor Seminars conducted to honor former U-M provost and Graduate School dean Nancy Cantor. Cantor recently resigned her post as chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to become chancellor and president of Syracuse University.

June Howard—professor of English, American culture and women's studies, and associate dean for interdisciplinary initiatives at Rackham—says the seminars were designed to address three of Cantor's important commitments: interdisciplinarity, diversity and public goods.
“Our approach has been highly participatory, and [doctoral] students have played strong leadership roles—both as individuals and in groups—at every stage in the process.”—Barry Checkoway, professor of social work and urban planning.

The March 23 and April 6 sessions focused on strategies for institutional change. The seminar will conclude April 13 and 20 with student-led discussions in which participants will formulate and propose a specific strategy for change.

"We have been privileged to attract an extraordinary group of doctoral students. They are highly diverse in their backgrounds and aspirations, but together share strong career commitment to enhancing education for a diverse democracy," Checkoway says. "Our approach has been highly participatory, and students have played strong leadership roles—both as individuals and in groups—at every stage in the process."

Topics covered during the 14-week course include: competing visions of democracy and diversity, roles of higher education in a diverse democracy, and pedagogies for a diverse democracy.

"The topic of education for a diverse democracy is more important than ever, not just because of affirmative action, but also because of our responsibility to prepare a new generation of scholars and educators with substantive knowledge, practical skills and social values responsive to this purpose," Checkoway says.

The Cantor Seminars began in the Fall 2002 term with "Hybridities: Collaborative Investigations of the Verbal and the Visual Image," taught by Linda Gregerson, the Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professor and professor of English language and literature, and Edward West, professor of art & design.

James Steward, Museum of Art director, is planning a third Cantor Seminar for Winter Term 2005. Steward says the theme will be museums and the public good, and it will investigate the social and cultural impacts and agendas of museums during the last 30 years.

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