Multicultural Supervisory Diploma Arrives Fall Semester 2008

New program focuses on diversity priorities of DCTC and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

Scott Gunderson & Harold Torrence

Scott Gunderson & Harold Torrence

Starting next fall, Dakota County Technical College will implement a Multicultural Supervisory Diploma program in the college’s Business and Management department.

The new program is supported by a 14-credit Multicultural Supervisory Certificate, which is also an emphasis area for the Supervisory Management A.A.S. degree. The result of an Initiative to Promote Excellence in Student Learning (IPESL) Institutional Award Project, the 34-credit Multicultural Supervisory Diploma program is designed to improve the enrollment and graduation rate of students from populations historically underserved and underrepresented in higher education.

“Our main goal is to shrink the communication gap between mainstream, native-speaking supervisors and English Language Learning (ELL) employees with diverse cultural backgrounds,” said Harold Torrence, a Supervisory Management instructor and one of the key architects of the program. “From what we can tell, this program is the first of its kind in the country.”

The program’s curriculum, which includes such courses as “Multicultural Mentorship” and “Managing Diversity,” will bring mainstream and ELL students together in teams that will explore challenging multicultural case studies and realistic business simulations. This core strategy will give minority students the skills needed to advance professionally in Minnesota’s business community. Native-speaking students will learn ways to better navigate an increasingly diverse workplace.

“This diploma is a proactive response to the rapidly changing demographics in our state,” said Scott Gunderson, the lead instructor of the Supervisory Management program. “More and more minority students are opting for higher education, and we need to find smart and creative ways to help them succeed. Increasingly diverse labor markets continue to expand cultural and language barriers in Minnesota’s business environments. Graduates of this program will be equipped to bridge that divide.”

Gunderson and Torrence wrote the grant application for the original IPESL Institutional Award. They designed the program to directly support the strategic priorities of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. One priority is increasing Minnesota’s participation and achievement in postsecondary education by fulfilling the needs of students with diverse cultural histories and academic aspirations.

A native of Venezuela with master’s degrees in management and public administration from Hamline University, Harold Torrence is wholly committed to the Multicultural Supervisory Diploma program. He sees the program as an innovative way to build strong and rewarding relationships between people from different cultural backgrounds. Graduates of the program will have the tools to live confidently and prosperously in a progressively multicultural world.

“We conducted a five-week pilot at a large area corporation,” Torrence said. “The pilot included 30 people from an amazing variety of countries, including Brazil, El Salvador, Vietnam, Cambodia, Guyana, South Korea, Guatemala, Mexico, and the Philippines. We applied snapshots of the curriculum, bringing minority floor leaders together with their native-speaking supervisors. The minority participants beamed with excitement when they shared stories and experiences from their homelands.”

Torrence pointed out that the program is designed to enhance the language skills of ELL employees, giving them greater opportunities to move ahead into supervisory management positions. “The program will also teach managers the fundamental skills they need to successfully supervise a multicultural workforce,” he said.

Other important participants in the program’s development include Dr. Ron Erickson, vice president of academic affairs; Gary Hebert, Dean of Business, Technology & Customized Training; Linda Foster, director of instructional technology; Nicole Cruz, former director of the Employment and Training Center; Peou Pin-Mene, former multicultural admissions representative; and Brian Espy, academic advisor.

Christine Pigsley, associate dean of business entrepreneurship, Ramie Chackan, director of career services, and Joy Kluttz, former director of TRiO, also made significant contributions to the program.

Dr. Ron Thomas, DCTC president, sees the new program as a major step in the right direction. “Dakota County Technical College is dedicated to diversity in higher education,” he said. “Diversity deepens the academic experience, encourages personal growth, strengthens communities and businesses, and expands our country’s capacity to compete internationally.

“The Multicultural Supervisory Diploma program will help establish trust, respect, and understanding between people from many different cultures.”

The Supervisory Management major provides working adults with the knowledge base and skill set needed to thrive in a modern business environment. Students acquire universal skills applicable to business entrepreneurship as well as to for-profit and nonprofit organizations, including manufacturing, event hospitality, retail, and health services.

The Multicultural Supervisory Diploma program will be offered at the DCTC Apple Valley site starting fall semester 2008.