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Amer Ahmed Workshop

When it comes to diversity at UMass we have some work to do. With CMASS only in its beginning stage, we needed some input from someone who has been through this before.

This is why Amer Ahmed, the Associate Director of Multi-Ethnic Studies from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, was invited to come and facilitate two presentations in Wilder Hall on October 27th 2010. The first one was from 9AM-12PM and the other from 3-5PM. Both presentations were open to all professional and clerical staff as well as graduate students.

According to Jacqui Pinn the director of CMASS Ahmed “was instrumental in the creation of the new organizational structure. I thought that our staff would benefit greatly from his approach to multicultural education.”

This was proven through his presentation “A New Path Forward Transforming Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA) at the University of Michigan Ann Arbour.” Ahmed shared that he has been working for the university for about four years now at MESA, which primarily focuses on student development for students of color in college.

The organization ultimately aims to find a balance between isolation and inclusion in regards to minority students. Originally MESA used the Ethnic coordinator model which meant that there was an identifiable contact person of support for each race/ethnicity Asian American, Latino, African American, and Native American. This was great for individual development but it provided no intercultural development. Also, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern groups were often not included in this model.

Over the past four years however, MESA has incorporated various theories into practice and shared with CMASS and the UMASS community. Some of these theories are: Multiple Dimensions of Identity, Racial and Social Identity Theory, Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity, and Leadership Development.

What was taken from the Multiple Dimensions of Identity theory was that an individual's identity is “dynamic and fluid” and is an integration of influences not just race, gender, class, sexual orientation but all of these and more.

From the Racial and Social Identity Theory, Ahmed explained that college students are usually in the phase of redefinition and internalization of their identity and that MESA's job is to support them in their self discovery.

From the Developmental model of Intercultural Sensitivity it was discussed that self awareness is key in developing intercultural relationships. Also, it is essential that one validate another person’s cultural experiences as well as one’s own identity.

Leadership Development was also discussed and it was determined that there is a strong connection between intercultural development and leadership development with students of color. It ultimately allows students to “bring all of who [they] are” to the table says Ahmed.

As to whether these theories will be adopted by CMASS Pinn states, “I absolutely hope that the student development theories will assume a concrete place in the way we think about providing relevant and progressive services to ALANA/multicultural students, particularly the Model of Intercultural Maturity. The how is yet to be determined but will become an on-going part of my dialogue with staff around how CMASS will operate.”

Ahmed is also known as a spoken word poet and hip hop activist (http://www.dawahpoet.com/) and one could also get an inside look into his travels across the country by following him on twitter. http://twitter.com/dawahpoet

Netha Gill (nethagill@gmail.com) - Website Reporter
Picture Source Courtesy: http://www.speakoutnow.org/userdata_display.php?modin=50&uid=4337