Incorporating Multicultural and Diversity Topics into Non-Content Based Courses

Contributed by Leslie Lewis (Gumberg Library)

Making students more aware of white privilege and racial, ethnic, and religious diversity, as well as issues related to gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status, can be a part of almost any academic course.

For academic courses that are “about” diversity, multiculturalism, race, gender, and/or sexuality, it is easy to incorporate readings, discussion, and assignments that deal with these issues.

Cultural competence is paramount in areas such as nursing, health sciences, and pharmacy, but is also important in education, business, and just about any field operating in today’s America and an increasingly global society.  Courses and service learning projects can directly address issues of cultural competence and expose students to more diverse populations/communities.

Promoting Cultural Competency in Research and Information Skills

But what if a course is a skills-based course?  How can one incorporate multiculturalism and diversity into a course where students are learning skills more than they are learning content?

If the course involves assignments with scenarios, problem solving, case studies, or statistics, an instructor can easily include topics that deal with multicultural issues or diversity.

For example, in UCOR 030 Research and Information Skills, the one credit core information literacy course, there is a lesson on using Microsoft Excel to communicate using tables, charts, and graphs.  Obviously, one needs to have a topic or an issue to investigate and statistics to analyze; why not select a topic that deals with multiculturalism or diversity?

At the beginning of the 2010-2011 academic year, the Duquesne Duke published an article about the incoming class of freshmen being the most ethnically diverse class ever.  I asked my students, almost all freshmen, how do we know this?  How diverse is the Duquesne student body overall and how has diversity at Duquesne changed over the past decade?

We used information provided by the Office of Admissions to create tables and charts that displayed the diversity of the freshman class and compared it with that of another recent class.

We then looked at diversity statistics for the undergraduate population as a whole that were available online from the Duquesne University Fact Books for the past seven years.

Because all schools of higher education are required to report their gender, racial, and ethnic enrollment to the federal government, we were able to use statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) website ( to compare how Duquesne’s make up compares with that at other area public and private institutions of higher learning.

We also used federal census statistics to compare the diversity of colleges and universities with the college-aged population as a whole and tried to discern trends in diversity and higher education over time.

In UCOR 030, students learn the basics of doing research at the college level.  At the beginning of each term, students select topics they will use throughout the course when learning how to find, evaluate, and communicate information using resources available through Gumberg Library. Depending on instructor preference, students either pick from a list of approved topics or are assigned topics.

I like to designate an overall theme for my sections and then allow students to select from a range of topic choices.  During 2008, the overall theme was elections and voting; during 2009, when the G20 Summit was held in Pittsburgh, students chose topics that dealt with foreign or military policy.  It was easy to include topics dealing with multiculturalism or diversity within those areas.

For example, in 2008, students could select topics that had to deal with women, minorities, or young people and voting.  And in 2009, students could choose topics that dealt with gays serving openly in the military or women serving in combat roles.  There were many topics to choose from, but often students chose ones that had to deal with multicultural or diversity issues.

This was just one way to get students engaged in thinking about multicultural and diversity issues while in a course that was teaching them research skills.


  • Diversity and inclusive excellence resources. (n.d.) Retrieved from American Association of          Colleges and Universities web site:
  • Goodman, D. J. (2001). Promoting diversity and social justice: Educating people from privileged groups. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Morey, A. I., & Kitano, M. K., Eds. (1997). Multicultural course transformation in higher education: A broader truth. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.