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Connecting Curriculum and Culture

Winter 2010 | Archives

Institute for Cultural Connections Fosters Diverse Educational Experiences

MCC is tapping into the community's wealth of cultural experiences to enhance students' educational experiences through a new initiative—the Institute for Cultural Connections (ICC). "Our mission is simple. We want to connect MCC students with cultural experiences, at the College and in the greater community," said Mary Umberger, a faculty member involved in the ICC's creation.

Those cultural connections might take the form of an on-campus cultural event, a visit to a church or museum or a lecture from a guest speaker. Regardless of the type of encounter, the goal is to integrate cultural activities into curriculum to enrich students' educational experiences and prepare them for lifelong learning through cultural interaction. The multicultural skills students develop will help them navigate an increasingly globally connected world.

One project in the works will connect students from various academic disciplines to the Douglas County Historical Society as it creates a North Omaha oral history project. Students will help document individual and family histories and stories from North Omaha.

"We believe that the more contact students have with individuals and experiences outside of their immediate and familiar environment, the more it will increase their understanding and overall tolerance of others," said Gary Toth.

While faculty had discussed the idea of building cultural connections before, the idea was formalized in 2009. Faculty and students can find resources to foster discussion and further thinking on the ICC's website. By gathering multiple resources in one location, the ICC hopes to make more cultural events and encounters more accessible to classrooms, curriculum and students.

The faculty-driven initiative grew from the Humanities and Social Sciences departments, headed by a team of faculty members including Umberger, Toth, Rebecca Orsini and Jim Van Arsdall.

Q & A with the Institute for Cultural Connections

The ICC fosters cultural encounters among faculty, students and the community. Faculty members Gary Toth and Mary Umberger talk about the institute.

Q: How do cultural experiences impact a student's education?
Toth: As faculty, we value the different ways that students can learn. Creating learning experiences for them beyond those tied to traditional reading, discussion and testing enrich the learning experience for students and instructors. MCC and the greater Omaha area is so rich in cultural activities. We wanted to tap into those activities to enrich the educational experience for our students.

Q: What kind of cultural encounters will the ICC foster?
Umberger: We want to focus on cultural encounters that can be tied directly to MCC curriculum so that faculty do not think of incorporating these experiences into their courses as "time away from class" but rather as "time spent on task," fulfilling the objectives of the course.

Q: What makes MCC an ideal place to explore cultural connections?
Umberger: MCC is the most diverse institution of higher learning in the state of Nebraska. At the same time, our students are often so focused on achieving their educational goals, they don't have time, or take time, to explore their own rich cultures, let alone the rich diversity of our metropolitan area. The job of the ICC is to help students complete their MCC education with a connection to their own cultures and the cultures of their city.

Q: What partnerships are the ICC exploring?
Toth: We are reaching beyond our two areas (Social Sciences and Humanities) in an effort to make connections between curriculum and cultural activities in the community. We hope to build a stronger connection with faculty at area universities, which may include collaborative programming as well as information about programs at institutions that may be of interest to students and faculty.

Haitian Earthquake

How to get involved:

Explore campus and community cultural events at the ICC's website, resource.mccneb.edu/icc. View the cutural events calendar—or submit a cultural activity of your own.

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