College leaders look to make diversity more diverse

'Diversity' refers to more than just race now

The definition of diversity is expanding at college campuses nationwide, Reginald Stuart reports for Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

"Traditionally, diversity was about race, two or three races," says Scott Snowden, director of minority-majority Kean University's Center for Leadership and Service. "The minority student isn't about race anymore."

Today's definition includes religion, gender identity, sexuality, and mental and physical disabilities, he says.

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And as student demographics change, the way universities look to serve them has changed, too.

"We used to say 'these are the things the students need,'" says Stacy Downing, VP for student affairs and enrollment management at Delaware State University. "Now, we're really assessing what they say they need."

Many colleges kicked off diversity initiatives last year, following protests at the University of Missouri's Columbia campus.

"We have to think about what a student's experience is like outside the classroom," says Jen Walsh, Beloit University's director of student engagement and leadership.

Among the diversity initiatives are themed menus at Delaware State, "diversity chats" at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and renaming a campus landmark that honored a segregationist at University of Maryland (UMD).

At UMD, a concrete effort to increase faculty and staff diversity this year will follow the symbolic changes.

At North Carolina Central University, an HBCU, increasing diversity means adjusting recruitment efforts to better attract Hispanic students.

School officials now attend more community events and offer bilingual orientation for students and their families.

"There is no one-size-fits-all, no magic wand" when addressing diversity and inclusion issues, says Downing (Stuart, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 4/6).


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