A Virginia Center for Inclusive Communitiesboard member who also serves as a college administrator described his college’s diversity and inclusion structure this way: “The admissions and human resources offices work to ensure diversity on our campus. Once diverse students and faculty are here, though, it is the responsibility of academic and student affairs departments to foster a climate of inclusion.”
Cultivating both diversity and inclusion on college campuses is an important priority, and one that has received increasing attention over the last decade. New research shows that, when leveraged, diversity actually makes for a more innovative and creative academic environment.
As Cedric Herring, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago recently reported, “My studies show that academic departments with more racial and gender diversity have higher national academic rankings, while less diverse departments are overrepresented among those with low rankings. When other things that affect departmental rankings — like program size, region, prominence of faculty publications, grants, and whether the institution is public or private — are taken into account, the relationship between diversity and program rankings becomes even stronger.”
Again, though, it is not enough to simply place people with different backgrounds, experiences, and world views in the same place and expect them to thrive. An article in Forbes titled “The Challenge of Being Poor at America’s Richest Colleges” exposes great divides along class lines, and discusses the additional resources and supports that institutions of higher education must consider.
As the article states, “Ultimately, it’s spreading awareness of resources like these — and not being afraid to have discussions about economic disparities on campus — that will help low-income students feel more at ease at elite universities, students and adult experts say.”
We are proud that the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities’ Diversity in Higher Education Division links our organization with a number of colleges and universities across the Commonwealth, helping them to both bring diversity to their campuses. and to have those tough conversations that create climates in which all students and educators can be successful.