Typically, diversity refers to race, ethnicity, or tribal affiliation. But, the term can extend even further to all underrepresented populations. This can include factors like sexual identity and orientation, income level, first-generation status, cultural background, gender, etc. Although many colleges throughout the country have their very own distinct and specific missions, many of them have a common belief. And, that is that they strive to offer diversity not only with their students, faculty, and staff, but also in how they teach, what programs they offer, and how they run their everyday operations. Navigating through a diverse and cross-cultural campus life is essential for students in their overall learning experience. And, here is why!
Students progress in their personal development by learning from those whose experiences, beliefs, and perspectives are different from their own. When a college is richly diverse in both an intellectual and social environment, students can ask questions, step outside of their comfort zones, and open up to new ideas! Monica Inzer, Vice President for enrollment management at Hamilton College, told U.S News that even if these interactions between students don’t change their way of thinking, it “informs how they position themselves in their own thoughts and opinions.” That is why it is so beneficial for students of different backgrounds and world-views to engage with one another. It not only expands awareness, but it encourages active thinking of their own ideas and beliefs.
Can students who are exposed to diversity in college actually learn and achieve more? A University of Michigan study showed that classroom diversity and multicultural events on campus resulted in students having better academic skills. This means that these students felt more engaged in class, more motivated to study, and they had a higher drive to achieve. Some other academic skills that showed improvement in this study were the ability to think critically, analyze/problem solve, listen, write, and even speak foreign languages. Overall, students who attended a culturally diverse college had gained a broad, intellectually exciting education and were satisfied with the quality and challenge of their classes.
When a student is exposed to diversity in their college education, they are more capable of thriving in today’s rapidly changing and multicultural world. These students are more globally competent because they have learned how to retain their identity, while simultaneously becoming aware of the cultural values and beliefs of the people around them. Not only do they understand the world, but they want an active part in it. Diversity empowers them to create more opportunities with informed, reflective action and to seek future prosperity of the world as a whole.
No matter what career path students decide to take, they need to expect to be involved in diverse work environments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the workforce is going to become more diverse across nearly all demographic categories within the next six years. Education within a diverse setting allows students to learn how to communicate effectively with people of varied backgrounds and nationalities. When students are aware of each other’s differences, they are more willing to accept them. Which means, they will become more comfortable working and interacting with a variety of individuals. Students will not only succeed in the workplace, but a diverse education can prepare them to become good citizens by fostering mutual respect and teamwork. With these developed social skills, they can help build communities, connect with its residents, and challenge many stereotyped preconceptions.
Just like students are able to learn more at diverse institutions, people who work in open, diverse, and inclusive environments are usually able to perform better. This is because each individual is encouraged to bring their authentic self to the workplace. And, when people are comfortable in their work environment, their organization can get the best possible results! With more talent, skills, and innovation being put into practice, the more companies succeed, and the more cities will have a better economic performance. This economic competitiveness is what can sustain the nation’s prosperity.
For many young adults, college is the first time they get to experience beliefs and ideas different from their own. By engaging with others of all kinds of backgrounds and nationalities, students can develop awareness and can learn and grow to their fullest potential! A richly diverse institution will ultimately prepare them for what the world has to offer and they can contribute to the future of our global society.