Women's Spirituality Diversity StatementThe Women's Spirituality Program holds diversity as a crucial component to our understanding of integral education. The program acknowledges the power differentials based on the social meanings assigned to gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, immigration status, colonization, ability, and disability. We are committed to unlearning oppression, building alliances, and unpacking our various privileges. While we are a program that focuses on the roles, activities, and spiritual practices of individuals and groups characterized as "women," the Women's Spirituality program explicitly acknowledges difficulties that arise from heteronormativity in spirituality and from dual or binary gender systems. We welcome individuals of all sexualities and diverse gender identities.
In its 20-years, this program has witnessed a burgeoning expansion in faculty, student, and curriculum diversity which allow us to assert that this is one of our most solid areas of strength.
Our core and adjunct faculty represent diverse spiritual traditions, academic disciplines, artistic practices, ethnic and cultural groups, class perspectives, countries of origin and sexual orientations and identities (including lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, queer, etc.). Some faculty members are single while others are married/partnered; some are without children, some have children, and some have grandchildren. Specific faculty demographics include:
• Alka Arora is the Chair of the CIIS Women's Spirituality Program. She is a first generation Indian-American woman
• Mara Keller is a philosopher, thealogian, women's spirituality scholar and ritualist, and Rosen Method bodywork and movement teacher. Of Welsh-Scottish-English-German heritage, she has a deep appreciation for her Protestant Christian upbringing and she also identifies with Old European roots and Wiccan and Goddess spirituality.
• Arisika Razak is an African-American healer, ritualist and spiritual dancer who has performed nationally and internationally in the Lesbian, Women's and Women's Spirituality communities for over thirty years.
We value ethnic and economic diversity in our program and we make a concerted effort to recruit and retain students who come from communities that reflect these diversities. We support diverse students through the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, the focus on diversity that is reflected by the curriculum, the solicitation of funds awarded to students via WSE Diversity Scholarships, and the involvement of students of color in our recruitment. We pay particular attention to issues of diversity in our advising and mentoring, recognizing that ethnic and class background, along with sexual orientation, are often part of what shapes and directs students' academic and career goals.
The diversity of students in our classes promotes an embodied understanding of disparate worldviews and epistemologies. It supports a lively exchange of information in which many points of view are represented and discussed and facilitates students' ability to effectively participate in the increasingly pluralistic world of the 21st century. In a learning situation in which all of us are co-learners, new information emerges from our diversity that expands our scope of knowledge. Our collective understanding of the human condition is enhanced by the safe and facilitated sharing of personal reflections and experiences that encourage us to re-examine assumptions of privilege in the dominant paradigm(s).
Our Fall 2012 student body of 72 individuals includes 30 self-identified women of color who represent approximately 42% of our total student enrollment. We attribute this rate in part to our emphasis on diversity in our curriculum and faculty, in part to our commitment to raising Women's Spirituality Diversity Scholarship funds, and in part to the publicizing of these efforts in our outreach and recruitment materials. Currently, we have international students from Bolivia, Colombia, Thailand, Korea, and the Philippines. In the past, Women's Spirituality international students have also come from Canada, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, and Turkey.
Our students represent many different spiritual and religious traditions. Some students identify with Native American, African Diasporan, Jewish, Druze, Hindu, and South American Shamanic traditions. Others follow Pagan, Wiccan or Goddess-worshipping spiritual paths. Some students identify as Catholic, Protestant Christian, post-Christian, or Buddhist while others claim an eclectic mix of several traditions. In the past, the program has included clergy of diverse traditions, ranging from Catholic and Hindu nuns to Wiccan high priestesses.
The range of class differences is reflected by the program's inclusion of students who have received public assistance as well as those of significant wealth. (Several of our wealthier students or alumnae have made significant contributions to our WS scholarship funds.) Differences in sexual orientation and gender identity are also present and our students identify as queer, lesbian, heterosexual, Two-Spirit, gender fluid and more. Our students range in age from their 20's to 60's. The majority are between 30-55 years old.
Diversity training is always helpful. It enhances our capacity to deal with conflicts and misunderstandings, not only in the classroom and among colleagues, but also in the wider world. We encourage faculty and students to participate in CIIS diversity trainings, some of which are offered as School of Consciousness and Transformation (CT) classes, and others which are presented as student workshops or through Public Programs. We encourage students to take advantage of similar offerings in the CIIS and Bay Area communities (or in other local or global locations as needed) in order to learn how to build real alliances across difference.
Support for Diversity
Like CIIS at large, the Women's Spirituality program continues to raise funds for scholarships. Over the years we have awarded 21 Women's Spirituality Diversity Scholarships totaling $24,250. These funds have been awarded to women of Native American, African-American, Philippino-American, Indian-American, Korean-American, Latina-American, Arab-American, Thai, Korean, and Japanese-American heritages
The curriculum is very multicultural since appreciation for diversity is a primary premise of each class and diversity is highly valued by our core and adjunct faculty. Foundational competencies of the core faculty include familiarity with a diversity of womanist-feminist frameworks and worldviews, as well as a variety of academic disciplines, epistemologies, and women's ways of knowing. Both core and adjunct faculty are especially attuned to the value of conveying wisdom in non-traditional ways.
Our required core courses are multicultural, international/global, and trans-historic in scope. Each of the major Areas of Emphasis of the Women's Spirituality program includes a diversity of religious and spiritual traditions along with the contributions, reflections, experience, and scholarship of indigenous peoples and people of color from diverse local and global backgrounds. Syllabi for our courses include western and non-western as well as canonical and non-canonical academic sources. Methodologies discussed and utilized in WS courses include multiple ways of knowing drawn from ancient and contemporary sources, reflecting the contributions of ethnically diverse working class and professional class scholars.
As a Women's Spirituality, Philosophy and Religion program, we recognize the contributions of pre-and post-colonial societies in Africa, Asia, North and South America, as well as indigenous and immigrant cultures in the United States.
An appreciation for diversity is also reflected in Women's Spirituality Journeys, during which WSE faculty and students visit selected historic sites and/or archaeological excavations to study submerged cultures, experience regional bio-diversity, and immerse themselves in a variety of contemporary and historic religious and spiritual traditions.
Spirit, Compassion, and Community Activism is a community service practicum required by the Women's Spirituality MA program and a general SCT elective for other CIIS residential and online students. The class attracts a wide variety of students across socio-cultural and biologic boundaries of age, ethnicity, nationality, and sexual orientation/identity. It also draws students from various academic disciplines. Diversity work and cross-cultural dialogue begins in the classroom as students support each other's efforts in various community engagement projects. This work reaches into the diverse communities of the greater San Francisco Bay Area and includes national and international projects. It offers meaningful social interaction between CIIS students and the greater global community, engendering positive social change.
Special program events such as WS concerts, galas, retreats, conferences, social gatherings, art exhibits, and other community productions are intentionally diverse and multicultural. They are renowned for their superlative representations of spiritual arts, music, and dance traditions from around the world.