Faculty Perspective: What is Learning-Through-Diversity (LtD)?

April 5, 2021
Frans Tax photograph

A letter to CIRTL@UArizona from Dr. Frans Tax, Professor, Molecular and Cellular Biology

From my perspective, one of the stellar aspects of the CIRTL training is their emphasis on “Learning-through-Diversity”. CIRTL’s philosophy is based on the principle that excellence and diversity are interconnected, and CIRTL’s goal is to promote equitable learning experiences for all students.

As UArizona graduate students and postdocs, you have the privilege of teaching a very diverse undergraduate student population. In fact, the undergraduates you teach are more diverse than at most Research Intensive (R1) universities. The UArizona’s Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) status indicates that >25% of undergraduates are Hispanic, and if we include African American and Native American students, this means almost 33% of our undergraduates are from ethnic groups underrepresented in their fields. In addition, around 25% of UArizona’s undergraduates struggle with high financial need (as defined by being funded by Pell Grants), and about one-third are first-generation college students. Other undergraduates are community college transfers, military veterans, post-traditional students, or have physical or learning disabilities. When a student walks into your office or virtual office, it is more likely than not that they have overcome significant barriers in attending UArizona.

So why is that diversity important? CIRTL emphasizes that it is essential to know the diverse backgrounds of your students to teach effectively because this knowledge allows you to take advantage of their experiences, backgrounds and strengths. CIRTL will help you understand how to better teach diverse learners, and therefore, to teach all of your students better. CIRTL will also help you create an equitable and inclusive environment in your classrooms.

Your challenge then, is to take advantage of the training that CIRTL offers and to practice what you learn on our UArizona students. The diversity of students is increasing at most colleges and universities in the US, and working with CIRTL and our UArizona students is an opportunity to prepare you for any teaching and research position in the country, or even the world.

As Faculty Director for Diversity and Inclusion in the UArizona Graduate College, Dr. Tax aims to ensure equity in access to graduate education, as well as in career and professional development opportunities.