University News

TWC undergoes review, seeks expand campus reach

Contributing Writer
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The University’s Third World Center is undergoing a year-long internal and external review to evaluate its current work and look toward future initiatives. The review will focus in particular on the TWC’s mission, name, organizational structure, resources and programs, said Mary Grace Almandrez, director of the Third World Center and assistant dean of the College.

The review consists of three parts – the first two parts, which began over the summer and have carried into the first semester, involve conducting an internal evaluation, while the third part involves an external assessment of the program that will be conducted by outside evaluators, Almandrez said. The last intensive program review took place in 2003 when the center celebrated its 25th anniversary, she added.

External feedback in particular can guide the center in strategic efforts to devise new initiatives and programs, said Liza Cariaga-Lo, associate provost for academic development and diversity.

The review will consider the center’s “entire portfolio,” wrote Paul Tran ’14, a Minority Peer Counselor Friend and the TWC Student Advisory Board member, in an email to The Herald on behalf of the TWC public relations team. This review will be powerful in crafting a vision for the TWC, he said, especially given recent changes in leadership. Almandrez and Cariaga-Lo have both been hired within the past two years.

The first part of the review is looking at the TWC as a whole – its programs, resources and name – and taking data from discussions, focus groups and surveys to evaluate how the center is doing. This part of the review looks to determine if “what we have is appropriate for students at this time,” Almandrez said. She added that over 29 conversations have already taken place pertaining to the center’s direction, including open student forums.

In the second part of the review, the University is comparing the TWC to similar programs at peer institutions. Administrators have already visited Yale and will soon visit Harvard and possibly Dartmouth and Columbia to gain a sense of their respective programs. 

After the internal review is completed this January, the TWC will submit a report to the campus and the external review committee.

Almandrez and several administrators from the College and Office of Campus Life will convene a committee of three or four people to conduct the external review, Cariaga-Lo said.  The committee members, one of whom will likely be an alum, will be chosen based on their expertise in the field and their theoretical and practical knowledge related to the TWC and its objectives, Almandrez said. 

The external review committee will consult with students, staff, faculty, administrators and alums looking to dig beyond the internal review, Almandrez said. 

After the external review committee submits its findings, the coordinators of the TWC will respond to the report and decide which recommendations to implement through a five-year plan.

“The TWC encourages students to be aware of issues, participate in conversations, reach out to others and be more open,” said Sabine Williams ’15, an MPC Friend and member of the center’s public relations team. “There is a big emphasis on making people feel comfortable and at home,” she said. 

But most students are unaware of what the program is really about and are therefore hesitant to get involved, Williams said. She said she finds it surprising that many think it seems an “uninviting space,” when it is actually such “a safe space, a cozy place,” and suggested that awareness could be a potential area of improvement.

That lack of awareness extends to the name of the Third World Center, Williams said, adding that the name represents the founders’ vision – to create a “Third Way” separate from those of the first and second worlds that would promote community, equality and empowerment among nations. But the name has drawn criticism for its relation to more negative associations with the term Third World as it relates to underdeveloped nations, as reported by The Herald in the past.

Awareness of the organization and its name will “absolutely” be emphasized in the review, among the many other aspects being evaluated, Almandrez said. “It is a great opportunity for the campus to start talking about what the center is about.”

Almandrez invited students to submit feedback on both the center’s strengths and weaknesses. 

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