University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Amherst: General Education

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Teaching & Advising


Social and Cultural Diversity

Educated individuals should address the complex ways in which societies and cultures differ from one another and be guided by attitudes which value cultural differences. Their perspectives on and communication with people of different cultures, both within their own society and in other societies, should emanate from an understanding of cultural diversity rather than from applying ethnocentric stereotypes.


The General Education Social and Cultural Diversity ("D") requirement has two designations: U (Diversity: United States) and G (Diversity: Global). One course in each designation is required for completion of the two-course "Diversity" requirement. All courses satisfying the 'U' (US Diversity) and 'G' (Global Diversity) designation address the same generic diversity guidelines described below, and differ only in a content-focus that is primarily either US or global.


Guideline #1 - Knowledge, pluralistic perspectives and engagement beyond mainstream traditions: Diversity courses prepare students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to appreciate, understand, and interact effectively with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Diversity courses reach beyond mainstream traditions to engage differences of experience and unequal access to resources that derive from race and ethnicity, national origins, language, socioeconomic class, gender and sexual orientation, religion, age and ability. Students develop pluralistic perspectives by exploring and comparing the experiences and products of both dominant and marginalized peoples.


Guideline #2 - Cultural, social and structural dynamics: Courses that satisfy the overall diversity requirement will explore the dynamics that shape human experience, produce inequality, and inform social group differences. Diversity courses examine the ways cultures, societies and social group members define themselves and are defined by others, as dominant or marginalized. To understand these differences and inequalities, students examine dynamics of power and inequality in historical or contemporary societies, the life experiences of peoples marginalized by mainstream cultures and economies, and/or the differing ethical or religious perspectives of people from a range of backgrounds.


Guideline #3 - Exploration of self and others: Students in diversity courses examine their own and cultural backgrounds and perspectives, their relationships to peoples with different backgrounds and perspectives, and the legacies that shape such differences. Students who take these courses are encouraged to apply different perspectives on social and cultural diversity in order to understand peoples' different experiences and social positions, to recognize the inequalities and injustices they are likely to encounter as college graduates, and to engage with others to create change toward social justice.


All diversity courses reflect the three guidelines listed above, with an emphasis either on US or global course content:


Diversity: United States (U designation) courses focus primarily on the timeframe and geographical locations generally understood to be "US," with topics not limited to a single US narrative. Questions of diversity that may be particularly relevant in the "U" focus are those of US women and people living outside gender or heterosexual norms, US groups racialized as peoples of color and/or immigrant or linguistically diverse peoples, Native American and indigenous peoples, and/or peoples who experience disadvantage based on their social/economic class, ability, religion, and/or other social groups or backgrounds marginalized by US dominant social and cultural norms. Courses that address "U" are primarily (but not exclusively) focused on diversity within the US.


Diversity: Global (G designation) courses focus primarily on global/transnational cultures and populations, and do not limit themselves to a single narrative. Issues of diversity particularly relevant to the "G" focus are those derived from experiences of global imperialism and colonialism, diaspora and migration, religious identity and conflict, cultural diffusion, the role of patriarchy and gender/sexual identity and non-conformity, economic globalization and marginalization, unequal resource allocation, ability, other social groups or backgrounds marginalized on a global basis, and challenges to global sustainability. Courses that address "G" are primarily (but not exclusively) focused on diversity outside a US framework.

The two designations have separate online proposal submission forms, Form LU for the US designation and Form LG for the Global designation. In cases where course proposals appear to satisfy both the U and G designation, proposers will need to select one of the two as the primary course designation. Courses cannot satisfy both the U and the G designations.


Proposers will use the U and G submission forms online. The General Education Council will use the criteria listed above in deciding whether proposed courses meet the criteria for the "U" or "G" versions of the Diversity requirement.


This information derives from Faculty Senate Special Report 85-024A and 85-024B and Forms LG and LU.

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