How Do You Manage Diversity to Create Inclusion and Excellence?
- Diverse, inclusive colleges and universities are important components of students’ development.
There is growing evidence that diverse, inclusive colleges and universities are essential to students’ intellectual and personal/social development (Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, and Gurin, 2002; Ambrose et al., 2004).
- Benefits of a diverse student population do not automatically emerge from a diverse student population but evolve from intentional interactions organized by educators.
Researchers stress that institutions must become inclusive places by working in intentional ways to increase educational benefits for students and for the institution (Milem, Chang, & Antonio, 2005).
Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, and Gurin (2002) note that “In order to foster citizenship for a diverse democracy, educators must intentionally structure opportunities for students to leave the comfort of their homogeneous peer group and build relationships across racially/ethnically diverse student communities on campus” (p. 363).
Colleges and universities routinely work to improve program quality and educational excellence but, according to Milen, Chang, and Antonio (2005),
- there is a failure of institutions to include diversity as a meaningful part of their excellence efforts.
- “. . . education leaders routinely work on diversity initiatives within one committee on campus and work on strengthening the quality of the educational experience within another. This disconnect serves students—and all of education—poorly” (Milem, Chang, & Antonio 2005, p. vii).
Ambrose et al. (2004) noted that the students’ previous experiences and ideas are challenged during college years, which leads to becoming a more fully developed person. According to the authors (Ambrose et al., 2004):
- A diverse campus is an important factor in that development, providing opportunities for students to interact with people of other races and ethnic groups, without which their self-development would be limited.
- Institutions need to go beyond numbers only or structural diversity to proactive means of increasing benefits of diversity.
Some key practices to promote inclusion include the following (Luo and Jamieson-Drake, 2009):
- Strengthen interactions of faculty and undergraduates;
- Seek ways to increase interracial interactions;
- Revise and expand residential, dining, and social areas in ways to support interactions;
- Adopt inclusion policies, including opening campus activities to all students (e.g., Greek-letter organizations and other groups that inhibit members from racial and social interactions); and
- Evaluate whether the institution is communicating a positive message about diversity as an institutional priority.
- Work to create a positive campus climate;
- Increase diversity as a process to improve learning rather that an exercise to reach a percentage of students, faculty, and staff from underrepresented groups; and
- Establishing core campus goals that support inclusion and excellence.
- Institutions of higher education must create interventions that maximize the benefits of inclusion by challenging students to think critically about their assumptions, seek out knowledge, and develop informed perspectives (Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, & Gurin, 2002).
Activities designed to promote diversity are not viewed favorably by many faculty groups but note that faculty who believe their department is committed to diversity (rather than the university) are more likely to incorporate such material into their curriculum (Mayhew and Grunwald, 2006).
To increase participation in activities designed to promote diversity, institutional planners make participation more attractive by offering release time, stipends, or honoraria for faculty who participate in diversity-related workshops and who incorporate diversity-related materials into their course content (Mayhew and Grunwald, 2006).
The following excerpts are taken from Hidden Bias: A Primer, an article published by Tolerance.org, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The entire article can be found at http://www.tolerance.org/hidden_bias/index.htm . The excerpts are printed with permission from Tolderance.org and adapted by R. Rhys, Diversity Resource Office.
If people are aware of their hidden biases, they can monitor and attempt to ameliorate hidden attitudes before they are expressed through behavior. This compensation can include attention to language, body language, and to the stigmatization felt by target groups.
- Shared Problem Solving - Integration, by itself, has not been shown to produce dramatic changes in attitudes and behavior. But many studies show when people work together in a structured environment to solve shared problems through community service, their attitudes about diversity can change dramatically.
- Imagining strong women leaders or seeing positive role models of African Americans has been shown to, at least temporarily, change unconscious biases.
According to the Teaching Tolerance Website, “We would like to believe that when a person has a conscious commitment to change, the very act of discovering one's hidden biases can propel one to act to correct for it. It may not be possible to avoid the automatic stereotype or prejudice, but it is certainly possible to consciously rectify it” (http://www.tolerance.org/hidden_bias/tutorials/04.html, ¶11).
To learn more, visit Southern Poverty Law Center’s Tolerance.Org