Diversity awareness is being aware of, respectful of, and embracing the variety of diverse aspects of humanity, whether race, religion, ethnicity, age, gender identity and expression, ability or disability, politics, class, or sexuality. According to the Center for American Progress, by 2050 there will be no clear racial or ethnic majority in the United States. And the shifting demographics on the American college campus are already beginning to reflect that fact. For many students, their first real-life exposure to many of these kinds of diversity may very well be in college, making it a great place to increase diversity awareness among your student body.
Bearing both trends in mind, creating a culture of diversity awareness should be a priority for any modern campus. However, making that goal a reality is more easily said than done. So, how do you get buy-in on developing a cultural and diversity awareness program at your school?
One of the key ingredients in promoting cultural diversity and awareness is to make tolerance and inclusion a priority. Establishing school-wide policies that outline student and faculty conduct are one way to make it clear that discriminatory and harassing behavior is not welcome. In doing so, it is critical to communicate these standards to students, clearly defining what actions are and are not appropriate. Most importantly, any policies that are developed must be enforced in a consistent manner, to demonstrate action behind the intent of creating them.
At the same time, evaluate admissions and administrative guidelines with a focus on identifying and removing any unintentionally discriminatory policies. Often, this is best accomplished by convening a working group comprised of a diverse variety of stakeholders, including those in positions of leadership. By prioritizing campus diversity and equity from the top down, you signal to community members that diversity awareness and cultural diversity are important, and can begin to build a foundation t of inclusion and tolerance throughout your school.
Several universities now offer courses specifically designed to foster cultural awareness and diversity, with some even making them mandatory for the attainment of undergraduate degrees.
Other institutions provide optional cultural and diversity awareness programs that encourage and promote campus diversity, such as the Intercultural Leadership Program (ILP) run by the University of Pennsylvania. The ILP pulls together domestic and international students for a series of workshops and projects, aiming to create “an intercultural community of leaders who are ready to take on issues they are passionate about, learning more about communities different than their own, [to] make a lasting impact.”
When looking to drive awareness around inclusion and diversity in higher education, many colleges schedule diversity awareness activities to promote cultural awareness or even set aside entire weeks to promote cultural diversity on campus. Some campuses host international food fairs, knowing that good food and full bellies are some of the best avenues for encouraging campus diversity and building cultural bridges.
Back in 2011, the University of Leiden held a “Subculture Fashion Show” during the school’s cultural diversity week. Not only did the show provide a light-hearted avenue to learn more about the Norse culture, but it also helped to demonstrate that no culture is a monolith. Even a people unified by language and history can represent a rich assortment of thought and expression.
Diversity awareness training can prove to be an invaluable tool when promoting cultural awareness on your campus. By offering your students the chance to develop the ability to communicate respectfully with peers from other backgrounds, you better prepare them to operate in the ever-shifting workplace and society as a whole.
Ideally, this diversity awareness training will help students to recognize their own unconscious biases and equip them with real-world strategies to engage in civil discussion, promote inclusivity, and discourage harassment and bullying on campus through active bystander intervention.
Hofstra University is taking a rather unique approach to encouraging cultural diversity and awareness on its campus, leveraging some of the permanent collections housed within the school’s on-site museum.
The university created a series of promotional posters that highlight some of the art pieces from around the globe that are contained within the museum to demonstrate and cultivate diversity awareness. Each poster provides additional information regarding the piece and the culture and region from which it originated. Now as students navigate the campus on their day-to-day activities, they can “learn about the art, geography, and history of cultures from six regions of the world.”
As college campuses grow more diverse, fostering an inclusive, civil culture only becomes more of a priority. By exposing students to the plurality of opinions, cultures, and backgrounds found in the modern workforce, institutions of higher education can better equip them to succeed in their future workplaces and help them to enrich their own personal lives.
To learn more about the role that diversity training can play in promoting cultural awareness on your campus, request a demo of our services.