Broadening Global Awareness through New Cultural Diversity Class

By: Katherine Arch


Dr. Mary Alice Trent, Division Chair of the Division of ML&L, who teaches this course
Dr. Mary Alice Trent, Division Chair of the Division of ML&L, who teaches this course

February is Black History month, a time dedicated to honoring the contributions of African-Americans to our nation’s culture; a new Indiana Wesleyan University course echoes this goal. This spring semester, the Division of Modern Language and Literature has launched a Cultural Diversity class that focuses exclusively on iconic literature from African-American writers. Dr. Mary Alice Trent, division chair of the Division of Modern Language and Literature and professor for this class, shared that faculty have wanted to start this class for several years.

“We recognized that the literary offerings of our community emphasized British and American authors, but these authors were predominately Caucasian. In our class offerings we saw few opportunities for students to study the works of writers of color,” Trent explained. “This initiated the Cultural Diversity Class; this year we are focusing exclusively on African-American literature.”the-color-purple

In an effort to broaden student’s literary experience, the Division also plans to launch a Gender Diversity class next spring. This class will allow professors and students the space to study writers, cultures, and concepts for which the curriculum previously have space. The Cultural Diversity Class and Gender Diversity class will rotate on a bi-annual basis. With this schedule, students have the opportunity to participate in both classes during their college career.

“At Indiana Wesleyan, we say that we are an academic community dedicated to creating World Changers. How can we change the world, however, if we do not engage in its culture? These classes are intended to help students gain a broader global perspective of the needs and culture around them through exposure to excellent literary works,” explained Trent.

This semester, this class is designed to help students discover the experiences of seven prominent African-American writers and help students identify their commonalities with these authors.

764061“This class provides students with the opportunity for an enriching experience. Studying primary and secondary sources, students learn to examine intersections between scholarship and culture. On the personal level, the class is engaging in a discourse about cultural commonalities as we explore the human experience,” Trent stated.

Through the writings of Alice Walker, Earnest Gains, Maya Angelou and others, students are invited to explore the world through the objectivity of another’s experience. These works create the space for students to develop heightened cultural awareness. Raw and honest, the authors share deeply personal struggles through predominately non-fictional works.



As students work through the texts, Trent hopes to see each participant gain a broader, more holistic understanding of the rich cultural and spiritual history of African-Americans. Looking at themes and motifs throughout African-American Literature students identify the influence of faith, spirituality, family and hard work as recurring ideas throughout the literature. By looking at the similarities between pieces and authors, Trent hopes students will identify the recurring truth that all people- regardless of ethnicity, race, or culture are human beings with similar desires and experiences.

This year the Cultural Diversity Class focuses on the work of African-American writers. This class opens the opportunity for students to study many different cultures and writers of color.

“This class can be used to study any culture,” stated Trent, “One year we might focus exclusively on Asian American writers or Australian authors; the possibilities are endless.”


Written by Katherine Arch, Story Teller for Alumni Relations. Katherine Arch is a Senior English major at Indiana Wesleyan, and a member of the Track and Cross Country teams. She is passionate about sharing people’s stories and celebrating their unique divine potential in written form. Katherine also operates a website called “Join the Ranch” at It is about pursuing God’s purpose for her life and vocation.

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