We live in a world that celebrates countless cultures and ethnic identities. Now more than ever, college campuses are better preparing students for the challenges and opportunities that await them in our global society. Learning to live, study, and work in a diverse community is now a vital element in becoming a global citizen, but how should students identify college campuses that facilitate diversity and multicultural experiences in a beneficial way?
College-bound students’ experiences with diversity and multicultural issues range considerably. In some cases, heading off to college might be the first time students have the opportunity for real interaction with people from diverse groups or backgrounds. Diversity itself has a varied definition and can manifest in many different ways across campus communities.
When looking at colleges, it’s important to assess the multicultural climate through a variety of lenses—from the classroom experience to campus programming and beyond. Students should look for ways in which they could see themselves engaging with the world and experiencing opportunities to learn from new perspectives.
Diversity in the classroom, on campus, and throughout the community
Diversity is vital to an academic community. Different insights, opinions, and backgrounds enrich the academic and social experience and help students gain a wider perspective of themselves and the world. Most college classrooms are a medley of ethnicities, religions, and lifestyles, and interaction with a diverse group of people—both students and faculty—will open students’ eyes to different points of view. We all gain from the insight and ideas exchanged in a diverse environment. Together, students learn to find their voices, reflect on current issues, and bring a vibrancy to dialogue in the classroom.
Beyond the classroom, it is important to picture diversity on campus as more than a community composed of individual groups. As global citizens, we are connected in ways that bridge intercultural gaps. College campuses provide unique opportunities to engage with groups and cultures that may challenge assumptions and advance understanding. Intercultural programming on many campuses begins with a variety of cultural centers that help retain students of color, foster awareness for cultural diversity, and provide social and academic resources to a wide set of students. Whether or not you self-identify with these groups, cultural centers help sustain the integrity of the academic experience on campus by opening students’ minds to different cultures, traditions, and values through campus-wide events and programming.
Being open-minded to engaging with others—whether through participation with fraternity and sorority organizations, spiritual life, or one of the many cultural student groups—is essential to understanding what diversity means in the 21st century.