Exploring Diversity Initiative 2017-18

Williams College is committed to creating and maintaining a curriculum, faculty, and student body that reflects and explores a diverse, globalized world and the multi-cultural character of the United States. Courses marked with a (D) are a part of the College’s Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI); they represent our dedication to study groups, cultures, and societies as they interact with, and challenge, each other. Through such courses, students and faculty also consider the multiple approaches that engage these issues. Rather than simply focus on the study of specific peoples, cultures, or regions of the world, in the past or present, however, courses fulfilling the requirement actively promote a self-conscious and critical engagement with diversity. They urge students to consider the operations of difference in the world and provide them with the tools to do so. The ultimate aim of the requirement is to lay the groundwork for a life-long engagement with the diverse cultures, societies, and histories of the United States and the rest of the world.

Courses that comprise the Exploring Diversity Initiative may fall under a variety of categories, including (but not limited to) the following:

Comparative Study of Cultures and Societies. These courses focus on the differences and similarities between cultures and societies, and/or on the ways in which cultures, peoples, and societies have interacted and responded to one another in the past.

Empathetic Understanding. These courses explore diverse human feelings, thoughts, and actions by recreating the social, political, cultural, and historical context of a group in order to imagine why within that context, those beliefs, experiences, and actions of the group emerged.

Power and Privilege. These courses link issues of diversity to economic and political power relations, investigating how cultural interaction is influenced by various structures, institutions, or practices that enable, maintain, or mitigate inequality among different groups.

Critical Theorization. These courses focus on ways scholars theorize the possibilities of cross-cultural understanding and interaction; they investigate the ways that disciplines and paradigms of knowledge both constitute “difference” and are reconfigured by the study of diversity-related questions.

All students are required to complete ONE EDI course. Although this course, which may be counted toward the divisional distribution requirement, may be completed any semester before graduation, students are urged to complete the course by the end of the sophomore year.

Students wishing to fulfill the EDI requirement via the completion of study away must submit the completed EDI form and their essay after their return proposing EDI credit for a course or independent study project/research they pursued while away. The essay will require students to intellectually describe how they believe their study away course or independent study project/research met one or more of the goals of the Exploring Diversity Initiative; the essay will be considered by the Director of the Exploring Diversity Initiative working in concert with the Committee on Academic Standing. The essay will either be accepted or rejected for EDI credit. There is no appeal process, and all decisions are final.

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