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Kathryn Cochran
Fall 2015
Dr. Wilson
Overview of Higher Education
Research Paper
Diversity on College Campuses

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For decades, there has been a push for diversity in higher education institutions across
our nation. The diversity push can be observed on the administrative level (presidents, cabinet
members, provosts), faculty and staff (professors, teaching assistants, graduate assistants), and
among the student body. As the exploration of diversity on college campuses spreads into more
territories than ever before, society is reminded of this exploration more often than ever when
light is brought to situations such as the University of Missouri enter into the public eye.
Students entering the higher education system are believed to indicate that one quarter of all
freshmen at four year institutions currently believe that racial discrimination is no longer a major
problem in America, which is the highest it has been in over twenty years (Pryor et al., 2011);
yet were seeing constant changes in diversity in higher education that are impacting minority
students on our campuses, such as a noose hanging from a tree, verbal comments, and acts of
harassment that has been publicized (Hurtado, Alvarado & Wann, 2015). The University of
Missouri, just for the latest instance, has presented these cases within the last month of news in
higher education; which rings the question: Are our campuses truly diverse? Have we truly
created diverse and inclusive campuses?
As this happens, the issue of diversity in higher education takes a true turn, sometimes
for the worse and better, and the alterations begin to occur on all levels of institutions. Diversity
in higher education settings can open the doors for possibilities of raising retention rates,

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bringing in new faculty and staff, and creating a welcoming environment to all students that
explore the campus. Liz Thomas, in the book Institutional Transformation to Engage a
Diverse Student Body, discusses the influence that a diverse student body can have on a
universities campus, such as education, personal dispostion, current circumstances and cultural
heritage. Thomas also discusses the reasons that it is in a universities best interest to create an
inclusive, diverse student body; many of the reasons pertaining to enhancing the students
experience, tapping into a larger pool of talent, commitment to social justice, access to new
divisions of student populations, and more (Thomas, 2011).
In order to discuss diversity in higher education institutions, it is first imperative to
understand what diversity is and who it impacts. Diversity, according to the Merriam-Webster
Dictionary, is the state of being diverse, having variety, a range of different
things. The term diverse extends to us from the latin root word diverte, which means to
turn aside. To turn aside, in essence, implies that someone must do a physical turn, cause or
perform a physical change. By this, society must look at diversity as creating change, or
impacting change. As professionals in higher education examine routes of implementing
diversity, it is imperative to imagine the change, the turning aside, that will take place upon the
implementation. Joan Reede, an M.D. at Harvard Medical School, is quoted to say If you look
at the leadership pipeline within your organization, and you dont see diversity, then you have a
problem (Reede, 2015). As Reede discussed at the forum, developing a pipeline to diversity in
the institution is just as important as the diversity occurring in the setting. The importance of
diversity, the lack of and instances of diversity on campuses across the nation, and the plan to
implement diversity in the classroom, as well as on the faculty and staff level of higher
education, will all be discussed to show the promises that intentional diversity can provide for a

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higher education across the nation. Creating a diverse learning environment has shown and will
continue to show that the diversity, when welcomed, creates a greater system of learning and a
contagious environment that will spread into the community surrounding the university or
college.
Research performed around the nation has examined the positive impact that diversity has
on college campuses, and one of the most intriguing questions that stems from creating diverse
and inclusive learning environments is how we create those environments. Research performed
by Considine et al. explored the experiences of instructors while improving the success of
diverse students and implementing changes to benefit the diverse population in their classrooms.
Though this research was performed in a pedagogical environment, the impact on implementing
policies with children can often be found also in an andragogical environment. The research was
performed by examining the instructors action plans, interviews, classroom observations, and
reflections from the instructors. The instructors gave interviews prior to implementing diversity
in their classroom and discussed their goals and expectations for the process. Throughout the
semester, there were researchers that would observe the classroom in order to examine how the
changes in the classroom were being implemented and incorporated in the lesson. By the end of
the semester, instructors once again were interviewed, this time discussing what they specifically
learned and how they thought it impacted their classroom. The instructors were expected to
speak of their confidence throughout the duration of the course, motivations for the changes, and
the outcomes of the changes; some of the difficulties and accomplishments that they confronted
and overcame throughout the process (Considine et al., 2014). The results from the research
showed that there were three common difficulties for the instructors: pragmatic challenges,
student-centered challenges, and challenges to the instructors self concept. These challenges

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stemmed from the differences that the instructors faced from previous semesters and classrooms
they had been a part of.
Some of the changes that were implemented in the course to create an inclusive
environments for the students that the instructors felt would impact the diverse student
population was the instructor and student interaction by holding individual meetings. The content
chosen for the course expressed a wide variety of perspectives and encouraged the discussion of
diversity. Some of the classroom activities were student led discussions, written reflections, and
collaborative learning assignments. These changes implemented in the course assisted the
instructors in their journey of diversity being welcomed and an inclusive nature being created.
One instructor that participated in the journey discussed how his perspective on leading a
discussion on slavery created an opening for him to understand where his African American
students were coming from when they discussed American history that included subjects such as
slavery and the civil war. He noted that his African American students would clam up, become
uncomfortable and that the stress and tension in the classroom became unbearable at times. As
this specific instructor altered the way he presented the materials that surround this portion of
history, he found that offering open conversations with the students about the past that
condemned their ancestors allowed the students the feel that their voice mattered, too; but it also
presented the opportunity for these students that voice their personal opinion on a subject that
directly related to their life and their families history (Considine et al., 2014). These changes in
the course, presented by the professor, allowed the students and professor to reach common
grounds that were not previously an option. This is due to the great strides being made in
education for diversity, and as it happens on the basis of classrooms in the k-12 paradigm of

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education, it is imperative that these improvements are also made in higher education institutions
across the nation.
The aspects of this research that could be recreated in higher education is the aspect that
the instructors created the atmosphere that they felt would impact the diverse student population.
Instead of assuming that the students would come to them and change the traditions of the
classroom, the instructors met the students where they were and guided them to a warm and
welcoming classroom environment. One of the greatest accomplishments performed by the
instructors was to alter the material that presented the facts from different sources and
perspectives than previous. Research performed by Caplan and Ford in The Voices of
Diversity went into detail on this subject; as they observed diverse relations at four universities
(Midwest University, South University, Ivy University, and Missouri State University) in an
attempt to understand how minorities felt in their specific university. An African American
student was quoted to say Most of the material has nothing to do with African Americans,
Hispanics, just mainly white people.. the only way on campus you can really learn about a
different race is just taking African america studies and different classes just for that race
(Caplan & Ford, 2014). As higher education continues to reform and progress, the question must
be asked: what are we doing for our students from all backgrounds to feel welcomed and
accepted, not only when they are a prospective student, but throughout their tenure as a student
on our campuses? Are we fulfilling the mission statement of diversity, are we writing a mission
statement on diversity, and is creating an inclusive environment our top priority, as it should be;
not just for the majority of our students, but for the majority and minority students. As
institutions seek to effectively perform these functions, looking at the text and how the text

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presents the subject to the students is one of the key aspects that must be observed and performed
in every classroom.
As diversity is welcomed in the classroom, the next step for higher education institutions
to perform is to then implement and take charge of diversity policies across their campus. In the
book Confronting Equity Issues on campus: Implementing the Equity
scorecard in Theory and Practice, Estella Bensimon and Lindsey Malcolm presents five
presuppositions to creating a diverse, equal, and inclusive environment through the policies of
the campus. The presuppositions are: 1) doing good, 2) participatory process, 3) remediating
practices, 4) inquiry as a change strategy, and 5) racial inequity as a problem of practice
(Bensimon & Malcolm, 2012). Each one of these presuppositions, according to the authors,
when embraced and enacted, can provide college campuses with a positive roadmap to creating a
campus that embraces diversity, not only in practice, but also in their mission statements and in
the universities theories that drive the campus. Many of the five steps presented are laid out and
shown where universities have failed in those departments; but they then go on to speak of how
university officials can reverse those trends in an effort to impact the diversity on their campus.
When universities are able to examine their weaknesses and improve where they have
faltered with diversity, improvement and strength from the student body and faculty and staff can
be improved. At the University of Memphis, President Dr. David Rudd implemented a series of
talks that highlight controversial topics such as the current state of race relations in the country
called critical conversations. Critical conversations opens up a safe environment for students,
faculty and staff to gather in an area that is monitored and safe to discuss these topics. This
change in atmosphere on the campus has opened a portion of higher education up to
conversations that may or may not have been held without the monitoring and setting up of the

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university officials. As the race relations in Ferguson, Missouri began to reach an all time low, at
the University of Memphis, a critical conversation series was held that allowed the frustration
and low levels of agreement to be properly laid out and explained by members of all sides of the
theories that surrounded the issues in Ferguson, Missouri. This placement of conversations and
the ability for the students to see the proper change on the administration level allowed for the
students to feel as if the administration understood where many of the students were in their
thoughts on the tense subject. As the administration moved to act in a way that would positively
impact the students, the students felt that diversity was not only invited, but also warmly
welcomed, and that the conversations that come with the diversity were also welcomed. The
addition of critical conversations to campus life allowed the administration to take what
Bensimon and Malcolm put into writing, and for the university to put that not only in theory and
on paper; but also in practice. Diversity at the University of Memphis is open and welcomed, but
the administration backing it by implementing these policies took the diversity and created
inclusivity. The book previously mentioned by Bensimon and Malcolm discusses the influence of
an administration that takes steps such as those at the University of Memphis in the section
Inquiry as a change strategy, as it goes in depth as to how a university can use inquiring into
the problems surrounding diversity on their campus to improve the amount of diversity and how
its embraced on their campus. Administrations must be the first to create an inclusive
atmosphere for students from all backgrounds, and that is when the changes in diversity will
happen. The administration must implement diverse policies by starting with themselves in
hiring a diverse population of faculty and staff, and then they will see an improvement in
diversity on their particular campus, no matter where their geographic location is. With a diverse
number of faculty and staff comes more diverse teaching and learning opportunities for those

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that enter the campus as students; and as students entering the campus examine this, larger
numbers of diverse opportunities will present themselves, not only to the administration, but also
to the students on campus.
The first step is to create an actively diverse administration, then to allow the classroom
to become actively diverse across the universities; but the question remains: how could diversity
improve a campus climate, and how do universities make it their goal? Satu Riutta and Daniel
Teodorescu discuss this in the article Leadership Development on a Diverse Campus,
where they discuss the future of diverse college communities. Riutta and Teodorescu seem to
think that universities are on the right path for diversity, but they wanted to research to see if
there was a significant relationship between interactions with diverse peers (other than
themselves) and socially responsible leadership? After a series of surveys and questionnaires
performed by the participants, Riutta and Teodorescu found that students in leadership positions
at Northeast University did in fact yearn for a higher quality of relationships with peers that held
different values and came from diverse backgrounds other than themselves. The researchers even
found that experiences together outside of the classroom became common and relevant across
the campus between students from different backgrounds, socioeconomic status, race, religion,
etc. (Ruitta & Teodorescu, 2014). They also concluded that the more diverse a college was, and
the more involved the students became on the campus in leadership positions that were
considered socially responsible (members in student government and other organizations of that
nature), the more often that student intermingled together, getting to know eachother and their
personal backgrounds, while asking and being intrigued by other students backgrounds as well.
Riutta and Teodorescu found that more times than not, when the campus climate was warm and
inviting to diverse student populations and organizations, this propelled the students to also

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become warm and inviting to students that come from different backgrounds than themselves.
With the diversity on college campuses improving, therein-lies one more question that gets the
interest in diversity on college campuses; and that is how the current generation is affected by the
heightened levels of college administrations trying to create diverse student populations, as well
as diverse administrations, faculty and staff.
As we examine the properties that must exist to create a diverse student body, it is
imperative to understand the current generation of college students: the millennial. Millennials
are a new type of generation, a much more accepting generation, or so it seems on paper. But are
millennials truly open and accepting to those of different cultures when placed into a setting with
them? As administrations on campuses across the nation enter into the discussion on diversity,
they must understand and comprehend the style and benefits of the millennial generation that
will undergo the changes to either improve diverse relations, or break them down. Diverse
Millennial Students in College: Implications for Faculty and Student Affairs
discusses the different, diverse populations that are popping up on college campuses that are
filled with the millennial generation. African Americans, Asian Americas, Latinos, Native
Americas, Multiracial, LGBTQ, is only a small portion of the diversity that is filling campuses
nationwide, and the text explores the experiences of these students on their specific college
campuses across the nation. The important aspect to remember when discussing millennials and
diversity is to examine the backgrounds of millennials and what their major life defining
moments were in terms to diversity: September 11, 2001, the election of Barack Obama as
president, mass murders on college campuses in the national spotlight, social medias explosion
into the world, and the recession. All of these factors have impacted student populations to open
themselves up to more diverse situations, and as one portion of the text states; millennials are

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hell bent on being the generation that creates change (Howard-Hamilton et al., 2011).
Millennials put it on their shoulders to continue to see societal improvement, and while they
dont put their money where their mouth is, they perform service where their mouth is. In fact,
the millennial generation has been known to perform more acts of service for the diverse
students and organizations around them than any previous generation. This means that theres a
lot more one-on-one action and less talk of action. With this, campuses can see the improvement
of their diverse populations in action, working together to improve their personal campus more
than ever before. As campuses become more and more inundated with the millennial generation,
it can only be expected that the diverse populations will continue to rise, and that the
relationships between the diverse populations will also continue to improve. With the millennial
generation being the generation to bring change, it seems as if its only necessary for universities
to immerse themselves fully in the opening world of diversity at the most opportune time in
history.
College campuses across the nation are in a time of reform, and will continue to reform in
the classroom and on the administrative level, but one of the most important portions of the
higher education reform lies in the diversity that we see on our campuses everyday. Is it
necessary to reform the classroom? Is it necessary to reform administrations on campuses? It is
even necessary to reform our mission statements and goals? For the sake of diversity, all of these
aspects of reform are indeed important, and will continue to be important if they positively
impact the diverse populations, or create diverse populations in college communities. College is
a step that many are scared to take, and they hesitate to take the step due to the changes that it
creates in their lives, but the more that we, as higher educational professionals, open these doors
for continued diverse improvement, the more that we will see the benefits, positive societal

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changes, and worlds being changed, not only in our communities, but also in the communities
that our students will one day impact in their personal workforce. When the words are spoken:
college changes lives, we must continue to create conditions that will change lives for the
better, offering our students world class education that includes, never excludes, the most
important aspect of our world today: diversity.

References

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freshman: National norms for Fall 2011. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research
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Thomas, L., & Tight, M. (2011). Institutional transformation to engage a diverse student body.
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Howard-Hamilton, M. F., Marbley, A. F., & Bonner, F. A. (2011). Diverse Millennial
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