What would happen if we were all the same? Can you imagine a world where there were no differences? If you’ve never thought about it before, take a few minutes to form a mental image of what your daily life would be.
Everyone knows that both school and university are microsystems that mirror the macro society in which we live. Thus our constant attention to what is going on in the world around us.
Our world is DIVERSE, in every sense of this word that has recently become so popular. Our society might be compared to a garden full of shapes, colors, aromas, temperatures…
Each seed needs different conditions in which to be able to grow and flower and spread its heady aroma through the garden, bringing added value with its individual nuances.
It’s the same thing with our students: each one needs some specific conditions to be able to contribute to our society and improve it.
The Attention to Diversity Unit (UAD in its Spanish acronym) is the gardener in charge of caring for the flowers that have some special conditions (normally the result of some specific needs for academic support) and for studying which of them need attention to be able to achieve equal opportunities during their university experience if they have these specific needs for educational support.
Besides caring for our ‘flowers,’ we have two other functions:
One of them is formation in attention to diversity and inclusive education. To this end we have designed a specific, pioneering program for teachers at Universidad Europea de Madrid, where each professor can follow his or her own road toward educating.
To gain knowledge of this subject matter, we have created three levels –beginner, explorer and expert– with different courses about the formative demands that the teachers can meet.
A large part of this training is based on diversified classrooms: knowing the most common diagnoses that are found in our classrooms (dyslexia, ADHD, hearing impairment and Asperger syndrome). The teacher must know not only the possible needs of these kinds of students, but also the tools and resources for adapting the courses to the concrete needs of each student.
The other function is awareness in matters of diversity of capacities and attention to diversity. To this end, during the 2017/18 school year we have taken a series of steps. As part of the Career Week we had Adecco explain to students with functional diversity how to prepare a curriculum vitae and resolve important doubts like whether it’s necessary for them to mention that they have a certain incapacity.
We also have a workshop run by Fátima Mulero about professional opportunities deriving from or implied by social impact, in which she presented her interesting auTICmo project. We also participated in a debate about different kinds of diversity in the workplace.
Our students who have been served by the UAD have been an important part of these events, and on two occasions during the course we have been able to put a face to diversity as they spoke of their university experience as students with specific needs for educational support.
This recent participation by students receiving care from the UAD, in addition to being innovative, has had a big impact on the educational community.
Among the barriers to inclusion are ignorance and the fear of something different. This kind of activity – which in a natural way introduces students, professors and non-teaching staff to something new– allows us all to see diversity as an added value to the university experience of our students.
We have gone from understanding inclusion as an educational principle to something that’s now a right. We should thus be alert and responsible so as to be able to respond to a need that is not just educational but also social.
Working together, we are all building a large garden and making Universidad Europea de Madrid into one of the points of reference for attention to diversity in the realm of higher education in Spain.