Making Gumbo

Appalachian College Association Calls on Neo-Diversity Expert Dr. Nacoste

Neo-diversity in Appalachia?

Since 2006 I have been saying, lecturing, writing essays and books to herald that America is in the midst of a struggle with its neo-diversity.

Everywhere in America, all across America people are trying to understand and manage neo-diversity; this new interpersonal situation in which we all have to encounter and sometimes interact with people who do not look like, sound like, worship like or love like, “us.”

There has been no better confirmation of that for me than my being invited and hired to be the lead-instructor for the Appalachian College Association 2019 Summer Teaching and Leadership Institute, June 3-7.

When I got the first email, I didn’t know, had never heard of the Appalachian College Association. I found out that, “The Appalachian College Association is a non-profit consortium of 35 private four-year liberal arts institutions located in the central Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.”

Why did the Association want me to lead the institute?  Well it turns out that the theme for the institute was “Diversity and Engaged Teaching.” Having learned about the content of one of my books, and my reputation as a classroom professor, the organizers were especially interested in my work on neo-diversity in the classroom and on college campuses.

You see those small (900 to 1000 student) campuses were beginning to realize that in every classroom there are people with different group identities whether those identities could be seen or not. They realized that the effectiveness of their teaching was being diminished when they did not take that mix into account in their classrooms. My job was to lay out strategies for their neo-diverse classroom teaching.

I spent a week at Emory & Henry College (Emory, VA) leading college professors through teaching workshops and workshops on facilitating difficult conversations. Participants’ responses to my teaching leadership were positive and powerful.

I went from thinking that this would be “interesting” to feeling truly excited. I began to realize that with a group of college professors from 15 or so different Appalachian institutions, the experience of learning about, being engaged about neo-diversity would now be rippling out into the whole of the Appalachian College Association campuses.

I had a really good time with this group of college professors who teach in Appalachia.


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