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College taps diversity, international programs leader

Noche de Familia
Ernst-Slavit makes a presentation at a Noche de Familia event
for prospective students and their families at WSU Vancouver.
(Photo by Laura Evancich)

PULLMAN, Wash. – To better prepare teachers and improve scholarship that extends to other cultures and languages, the College of Education (COE) has appointed Gisela Ernst-Slavit associate dean for diversity and international programs. It’s believed to be the first associate dean position of its kind at Washington State University.
 
“Diversity has always been a key piece for us,” said Mike Trevisan, COE dean. “But we had kind of lost our focus on it for a variety of reasons.”

“Many faculty and staff have been, over the years, working on their own on these efforts,” said Ernst-Slavit, “and there have been some successes. But as a whole, we haven’t put those efforts together.”
 
She said she is excited to support and synergize initiatives, ensure scholarship becomes a key part and help the college realize its global mission.
 
“We want to continue preparing teachers, administrators and counselors to work in the K-12 system,” she said. “Globalization is not just window dressing but is central to the mission and vision of the college.”
 
‘Difference is an asset’
Following a nomination process, the college leadership team reviewed applicants and selected Ernst-Slavit.
 
“Gisela is very well respected not only by people within our college but by many at the university,” Trevisan said. “She was the right person for this.”
 
She grew up in Lima, Peru speaking Spanish and German before attending the American School of Lima where she learned English.
 
Nishinomiya, Japan
Ernst-Slavit has lunch with fourth graders in Nishino-
miya School District, Japan.

“I learned very quickly how difference can be viewed by many people as ‘less than,’ as if there is something missing,” she said. “But all my life, I’ve believed difference is an asset. Because of my diverse experiences, because I spoke three languages and because I could view the world from different perspectives, my life and career were enriched.

“Everything I have done even before I came to WSU has centered on addressing diversity and enhancing educational opportunities for underrepresented groups,” she said.
 
Diversity in service
When she arrived in Pullman in 1991, Ernst-Slavit said, there were few diverse students on campus and even fewer mechanisms of support for them.
 
“There were not many faculty of color to nurture and mentor those students,” she said.
 
She became faculty advisor for Mujeres Unidas, a group of Latina students, and for the English Language Learners (ELL) student group. She participated in diversity efforts of the COE, the Office of Multicultural Student Services and the College of Liberal Arts.
 
Diversity in scholarship
In addition to service, Ernst-Slavit’s broader experience will lead the COE in globalizing scholarship.
 
“Gisela’s done some well-respected scholarship in pedagogy and curriculum,” Trevisan said. “She is publishing rigorous work in some of the finest scholarly outlets.”
 
A foundational book, “Academic Language in Diverse Classrooms,” will be published in the spring.
 
Through Corwin publishing, she is author or co-author of a seven-book series that guides educators in targeting academic language in student learning. Three of the books – dealing with math – were published earlier this year. Three books dealing with English language arts will be published this fall.
 
“Often, when we talk about issues of diversity, it’s isolated and not connected to scholarly activities,” Ernst-Slavit said. “My efforts in diversity have been equally strong in all areas – not only in service but in research and teaching. This book series reflects commitment to both diversity and scholarship.
 
“A notion of scholarship without borders can expand and broaden our ways of teaching, learning and leadership,” she said.
 
Ongoing efforts a starting point
Ernst-Slavit has been given some specific tasks by the dean. Part of the college mission statement reads: “COE embraces and promotes international education with the goal of fostering global citizenship by weaving components of diversity, international experience and global thought within the undergraduate and graduate curricula.”
 
Some efforts already are under way.
 
“There have been several, sustained efforts to participate in the global village, do research with colleagues in other countries, bring students and faculty from other universities abroad and send our own folks to study abroad,” she said.
 
One notable effort is a partnership between COE and the school system of Nishinomiya, Japan. For the past 25 years, the school system has hired a teacher of English as a second language. It’s a 12-month position that is open to COE faculty, staff, graduate students, alumni, Pullman School District teachers and WSU affiliates.
 
This year, Amy Druse, who recently received her master’s in education from WSU, will represent the college in Nishinomiya.
 
Additionally, a delegate for Nishinomiya’s school district will often come to WSU. That’s usually to Pullman, though it has also been to Spokane and Vancouver. The Japanese teacher will usually spend some time at the Intensive American Language Center, visit Pullman public schools and sit in on some COE courses.
 
“This is a very important effort,” Ernst-Slavit said. “It’s one example of where work is already being done in diversity and international initiatives.”
 
Another initiative, coming up on its 10-year anniversary, is the annual International Globalization, Diversity and Education Conference. It addresses themes of diversity and education within the context of globalization and works to bridge local and global people, economies, cultures and ideologies.

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