Acknowledging the importance of diversity to education, colleges and universities have begun to take the concepts of diversity and apply them to student learning opportunities. We see these steps in efforts by colleges to embrace an inclusive curriculum. Today you can find courses with a diversity focus, and many of them meet graduation requirements. The college setting is ideal for promoting education about diversity because it allows students and faculty of varying backgrounds to come together for the common purpose of learning and critical thinking.
According to Gloria Ameny-Dixon, education about diversity can do the following:
Increase problem-solving skills through different perspectives applied to reaching solutions
Increase positive relationships through the achievement of common goals, respect, appreciation, and commitment to equality
Decrease stereotyping and prejudice through contact and interaction with diverse individuals
Promote the development of a more in-depth view of the world1
Be it religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, age, culture, economic status, or ability, your campus provides the opportunity to interact with and learn alongside a kaleidoscope of individuals.
College students have led the movement for a curriculum that reflects disenfranchised groups such as women, people of color, the elderly, the disabled, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered. By protesting, students have demanded the hiring of more instructors from different ethnic groups, the creation of Ethnic Studies departments, and a variety of initiatives designed to support diverse students academically and socially. Included are multicultural centers, women’s resource centers, enabling services, and numerous academic support programs.
In almost all colleges and universities, you will be required to take some general education courses that will expose you to a wide range of topics and issues. We hope that you will include a course or two with a multicultural basis in your schedule. Such courses can provide you with new perspectives and an understanding of issues that affect your fellow students and community members. They can also affect you, possibly in ways you had not considered. Just as your college or university campus is diverse, so too is the workforce you will be entering. A multicultural education can improve the quality of your entire life.
Student-run organizations can provide multiple avenues to express ideas, pursue interests, and cultivate relationships. According to our definition of culture, all student-run organizations provide an outlet for the promotion and celebration of a culture. Let’s take, for instance, a Muslim Student Union and an Animation Club and apply the components of culture to them. Both groups promote a belief system that is common among their members: The first is based on religious beliefs, and the second is based on animation as an art form. Both have aspects that can be taught: the teachings of the Muslim faith and the rules and techniques used in drawing. Both groups use a specific language related to the group’s belief system. Most campus organizations bring like-minded students together and are open to anyone who wants to become involved.
To promote learning and discovery not only inside the classroom but outside as well, colleges and universities provide programming that highlights ethnic and cultural celebrations, such as Chinese New Year and Kwanzaa; gender-related activities, such as Take Back the Night; and a broad range of entertainment, including concerts and art exhibits. These events expose you to new and exciting ideas and viewpoints, enhancing your education and challenging your current views.
Fraternities and sororities provide a quick connection to other individuals and a link to the social pipeline, camaraderie, and support. These organizations differ in their philosophies and commitment to philanthropy. Some are committed to community service; others are more socially oriented. Fraternities and sororities created by and for specific ethnic groups, such as Nu Alpha Kappa Fraternity and Sigma Omicron Pi Sorority, have existed for years and were developed by students of color who wanted campus groups that allowed them to connect to their communities and cultures. Such organizations have provided many students with a means to become familiar with their campus as well as gain friendships and support while promoting their cultures and ethnicities.
You can also explore diversity through your major and career interests. Groups that focus on a specific field of study can be great assets as you explore your interests. Are you interested in helping minority and majority groups interact more effectively? Consider majoring in sociology or social work. Do you want to learn more about human behavior? Study psychology. If you join a club that is affiliated with the major that interests you, not only will you find out more about the major, but you can also make contacts in the field that could lead to career options.
Adding to the diversity mix on campuses are organizations devoted to specific political affiliations and causes, such as Campus Republicans, Young Democrats, Amnesty International, and Native Students in Social Action. These organizations contribute to the diversity of ideas and provide debating events and forums to address current issues and events.
Perhaps the largest subgroup of student organizations is the special-interest category, which encompasses everything from recreational interests to hobbies. On your campus you might find special-interest clubs such as the Brazilian Jujitsu Club, the Kite Flyers’ Club, the Flamenco Club, and the Video Gamers’ Society. Students can cultivate an interest in bird watching or indulge their curiosity about ballroom dance without ever leaving campus. If a club for your special interest is not available, create one yourself.
inclusive curriculum A curriculum that offers courses that introduce students to diverse people, worldviews, and approaches.