A recent article from the Chronicle of Higher Education features new strategies for enhancing campus diversity and inclusion (D&I). Following are highlights of this growing D&I commitment.
NEW DEFINITIONS. NEW REQUIREMENTS.
Although diversity has long been a concern of university administrators, adding the term "inclusion" requires higher-education institutions to create an environment where all members of the campus community feel respected.
And while "diversity" traditionally refers to the number of minority students and staff, that definition is also evolving beyond race, gender and disability. "I think too many times we forget about socioeconomic diversity," says Troy LeMaile-Stovall, chief operating officer at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), a majority black institution. "Just because you’re a white American male—but you come from rural America—doesn’t mean that you have the same value sets as an urban white guy who grew up elite. They’re going to have two different value sets."
HIGHER ED’S UNIQUE ROLE
The benefits of diversity are widely acknowledged in business. Ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to have greater financial returns compared to their less-diverse peers, while companies with greater gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform competitors, according to a 2015 McKinsey & Company report. However, for colleges and universities, creating a diverse learning environment lays the foundation for shared future benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Student body diversity in institutions of higher education is important not only for improving the economic and educational opportunities for students of color, but also for the social, academic, and societal benefits that diversity presents for all students and communities.1”
U.S. Department of Education
THE ROAD AHEAD
What diversity on college campuses will look like—and the challenges in getting there—will vary from one institution to another. Although Lemaile-Stovall would like to see more white students at UDC, his goal is to bring students from different geographies together, not necessarily ethnicities. “It’s important for me to make sure that a student from Ward 3 in D.C. gets to interact with the kid from the rural area of North Carolina. Because it’s in those engagements that the learning process and the richness of what we’re supposed to be about really takes place. Greater ideas come out of that—because if your perspective is just your ZIP code, how can you really understand the world?”
INSTITUTIONAL VISION AND SUPPORT
Some higher-education leaders are incorporating D&I policies into their educational missions. At California State University, Fullerton, a comprehensive public university with a majority-minority campus, 57% of its bachelor’s degree recipients are the first in their families to graduate from college. Fullerton’s institutional goals explicitly address the needs of underprepared students, and it strives to increase Hispanic and African-American student retention rates. The university offers summer programs to ensure students from poor areas are adequately prepared, and peer-to-peer learning to help during the academic year. More experienced students act as counselors to provide advice about college life.
Chief Operating Officer
University of the District of Columbia
Education and training for faculty, staff and students are key aspects of D&I efforts. At Notre Dame, Eric Love, director of staff diversity and inclusion, organizes diversity discussions where staff members talk about difficult topics. At a recent event titled, “Black Lives, Blue Lives, All Lives: Do I have to choose just one?,” the founder of the Black Lives Matter chapter from South Bend, Indiana appeared alongside Notre Dame’s police chief.
Love also runs a two-hour workshop as part of the staff on-boarding process, a four-hour workshop focusing on the benefits of inclusion, multicultural competencies, and micro-aggressions, and a day-and-a-half workshop for hiring managers, vice presidents, and their direct reports. He follows up with staff surveys to measure his programs’ effectiveness.
Interim Associate VP of Human Resources
Diversity and Inclusion
California State University, Fullerton
THE INCLUSIVE CAMPUS
Increasingly, administrators say that an inclusive campus is central to higher education. Both in college and afterwards, young people need to learn how to navigate new relationships and situations. "The world is becoming so much smaller," says John Beisner, the interim associate vice president of human resources diversity and inclusion at Cal State Fullerton. "The opportunity to interact with those who have different experiences, come from different places, both literally and figuratively—to have opportunities on campus to express your voice, and at the same time be challenged by ideas that are different than your own—that’s what’s necessary to equip the next generation of leaders."
1 U.S. Department of Education, “Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education," November 2016.