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Quintana speaks with Journal Sentinel about UW's new ‘Our Wisconsin’ program

August 04, 2016

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently published an article examining a new UW-Madison cultural competency training program that’s going to be rolled out during the fall semester and delivered to up to 1,000 freshmen.

Among the experts across campus who helped craft the new program, the Journal Sentinel notes in its in-depth report, is the School of Education’s Steve Quintana, a professor with the Department of Counseling Psychology, and an affiliate with the School’s Department of Educational Psychology.

The news report explains: “For many freshmen arriving at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall, it will be the first time they interact with students who don't overwhelmingly look, love, experience and identify in the same way. Often that's a mind-broadening experience. But after a series of disturbing incidents last year — Swastikas taped to the dorm room door of a Jewish student; heckling of a Native American elder with 'war cry sounds' during a healing circle and racial threats in an anonymous note to a student of color — the university is planning to give incoming freshmen more than just an academic education.”

Steve Quintana
The Journal Sentinel adds:  "The state's flagship campus is part of a national wave of universities that view mandatory cultural competency orientation as one way to help relieve racial tensions and help graduates ultimately be more adept at navigating diverse work environments. Designers of the diversity program, dubbed Our Wisconsin, said they consulted with University of Oklahoma and other colleges implementing diversity programs, including Oregon State University, the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan.”

The article continues: “Such diversity training efforts have at once been cheered by student activists pushing for more diversity initiatives and questioned by critics who suggest that it is unnecessary or even counterproductive. Detractors, through platforms like The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, have characterized the trend as an expensive overreaction that does little more than waste money.”

Indeed, the Journal Sentinel explains how diversity training has a checkered track record, with research of initiatives in the corporate world suggesting that diversity programs are more likely to stir backlash than understanding among employees.

But Quintana tells the Journal Sentinel that diversity training does not inevitably downplay similarities between students.

"The general research shows that when you have personal connections and similarities with others from different backgrounds, this is what helps people develop greater appreciation for others," he tells the Journal Sentinel.

Quintana goes on to add that finding common bonds between superficially different individuals is a way to better understand diversity.

"A lot of research shows that it's not exactly deficit of knowledge that leads to attitudes that are problematic, but it's the absence of interpersonal interactions," he tells the newspaper.

But to learn much more about the new UW-Madison freshman cultural competency training program and Quintana’s thoughts on this nuanced topic, make sure and check out the entire report on this web page.
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