Elon University’s Winter Term 2013 will center on diversity. It will offer more than 80 diversity-themed courses and a myriad of cultural events for students to attend.

“Students will be learning about different types of diversity,” said Mary Jo Festle, associate director of the Center for Advancement of Teaching and Learning. “These courses are related to nationality, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic class, religion, physical ability, sexual orientation, political orientation, region, subcultures, biology, etc. And they will be approaching issues from different disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives depending on the expertise of the faculty member.”

“Study-away” courses will also be offered this Winter Term, allowing students to travel to domestic and U.S.-based locations to study the subject of the class.

“Hopefully whatever course students take, they realize that there are lots of kinds of diversity that are worthy of study,” Festle said. “We live in a complex world and we all need to be able to negotiate differences and understand perspectives and experiences other than our own."

Both Festle and Barnett said they hope students who don’t have the chance to take diversity-themed courses will still engage in the campus-wide events that relate to the diversity theme.

“Events were chosen because they seemed like they could connect to diversity content and also be interesting to students whether they are in a diversity-related course or not,” Festle said. “If people make some connections – intellectually or personally – inside of class and out – between courses, between different types of diversity – I’ll be excited.”

The diversity theme was born from an idea by the Curriculum and Pedagogy Subcommittee of the President’s Diversity Council a few years ago, according to Festle.

“The university has often had themed Winter Terms and now an unprecedented commitment to diversity is one of the university’s top strategic priorities in its long-term plan,” Festle said.

Festle also noted it’s important to realize the many different forms of diversity.

“We human beings are complex and we live in a complex world,” she said. “All of us know some things about our slice of experience and some things that we’ve studied; and all of us can learn more.”