The idea for a pre-service teacher collaborative based on diversity began in 1994 when Dr. Marilyn Izzard was teaching part-time for the Schools of Education of both the campuses of Benedict College and the University of South Carolina in Columbia. From her dissertation research (Izzard, 1997) and working with students from diverse backgrounds, came the idea to form a collaborative that would bring students from different backgrounds together to interact and learn from one another about cultural issues.
In the spring of 1994, Dr. Izzard brought the two groups of students together for a day of discussion and collaboration. The first diversity collaborative consisted of 17 students, seven from USC (one Asian female and six Caucasian females) and ten from Benedict (three African American males and seven African American females). The groups spent the day together in Charleston, SC discussing diverse issues and perspectives. It was informal and open. Students shared their background experiences, asked questions they might have been afraid to ask in a formal classroom setting and gave suggestions and ideas for setting up classrooms to meet the needs of all children.
The second diversity collaborative was held the following spring (1995)and continued to be informal; yet, was structured to take place with a planned agenda. This 1st actual Diversity Conference occurred in the spring of 1995 at Sesgue Centennial Park in Columbia, SC. The group rented a building, had a cook-out and participated in a team-building nature trail activity. The trail experience included communication and trust activities, self-awareness pursuits, and problem solving endeavors. As a part of these activities students would identify, analyze and discover new ways of thinking. Many of the activities were impossible to be completed individually so students had to work together and trust one another to meet their goals. One of the goals of the team building project was to see the total outcome as greater than the sum of the individual parts, a concept they must embrace when entering a classroom of diverse and unique individuals.
During the following two years the conference began to take a more defined shape during weekend retreats. Infused with the South Carolina Early Childhood Association (SCECA) Conference, students were required to attend two sessions on diversity, a round table discussion, and any other presentations of their choosing. Having these students live together for three days and two nights, cooking and eating most of their meals together and hearing speakers share strategies and emphasize the importance of interaction brought them closer, opened them up to discussions they would not have normally had with each other and helped prepare them to meet the needs of the children they would someday teach.
In 1998, Dr. Izzard transferred to the USC Upstate School of Education Department and continued the tradition of the diversity collaborative. Since this time, the collaborative has grown from two universities to ten. In 1999, a fall conference was added at Benedict College and continues each autumn on their campus. In 2000 the decision was made to open up the conference to more colleges and universities in South Carolina. It is now strictly for students in their directed teaching semester, and includes the following campuses: USC Upstate, Benedict College, South Carolina State University, Claflin University, Columbia International University, USC Columbia, Converse College, Morris College, Furman University and Clemson University.