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Going by the book: A new book club tackles the issues

image of Beverly Tatum book

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? is not just a book title. Self-segregation happens on campuses all across the country, as well as in our classrooms. So what can faculty do about it?

That’s what Mayuko Nakamura and other faculty/staff are talking about as they discuss Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book in a new book club that formed through the Teaching and Learning Community created in 2010 to explore racial and ethnic diversity.

“Every time we start reading a book, it takes more than a semester because we read in depth,” said Nakamura, a coordinator with the Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology and organizer of the networking group for minority faculty/staff. “We are talking about how we can apply what we’re learning in the classroom.”

Nakamura, who’s originally from Nagoya, Japan, organized the networking group in 2010 after a conversation with two faculty members from Educational Administration and Foundations. “They were looking for a way underrepresented faculty could find professional development, geared toward the challenges they were facing,” she said.

Since then about 20 faculty/staff have joined the group, meeting informally every three to four weeks on Fridays. They talk about cultural issues in their classrooms or departments and offer ideas, strategies and support. It’s also developed into a social group with some gathering for dinners and taking on community projects. And they talk about current events as well, from the 2012 fatal shooting of the 17-year-old African American high school student Trayvon Martin to the new 12 Years a Slave movie.

“Whatever members are interested in, whether it’s within the ISU community or outside of it, we share,” said Nakamura. “It’s a very strong social support group. I’m amazed at what I’m learning.”

African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native Americans are represented but she hopes to also attract those from the LGBT community.

The group is considering doing a climate study of minorities on campus.

“We’re interested in their individual perspectives on how they feel about the environment, how they feel working or studying in this environment and how they’re perceived or treated,” she said. “We’re interested in how ISU is doing in welcoming and accommodating minority students and faculty/staff.”

She’s also interested in the needs of international students/faculty and would like to do a project with them, possibly a summer workshop.

“So far we’ve been focused on domestic diversity. We would like to expand to international diversity.”

For more information on the book club or the networking group for underrepresented faculty/staff, contact Mayuko Nakamura at mnakumu@ilstu.edu, or 438-2628.

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