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Diversity is a term that gets used in many ways, especially in higher education. We know that diversity has value across many dimensions. Diverse ways of approaching a problem or issue result in better solutions. Being exposed to, and learning to appreciate, diverse points of view are a fundamental part of the learning process. Understanding diverse cultures brings meaning and appreciation for things that might otherwise produce conflict. And providing access to higher education to the full diversity of our population closes achievement gaps and brings promise to future generations.
When we talk about diversity, often the focus is on what we can easily see or measure, and we ask ourselves if our campus is diverse in terms of things like race, ethnicity, or gender. But we recognize that there are myriad ways that individuals and groups identify themselves, many of them invisible until we look further. All of the ways we define diversity bring value to our campus and our society.
Because diversity is complex and difficult to measure, I believe that our diversity efforts should be focused on equity and inclusion. We need to develop a campus where all members of our community have equitable access to our programs; where students, faculty, and staff are treated equitably in all aspects of the university, such as classroom interactions, evaluations, and applications. Our campus community must be inclusive and welcoming to everyone. We must understand the diverse cultures and histories that our community members bring to our campus in order for us to understand what will make them feel included and welcome. We must pay attention to the needs of diverse individuals and intrusively inquire about those needs and intervene, rather than let people sink or swim. If we do these things, I believe all of our students, faculty, and staff will grow and thrive here.
Universities have the opportunity to be the model of inclusiveness that not only impacts our campus community, but extends to society at large. Please join us in our efforts to develop an equitable and inclusive campus, and to celebrate the diversity we all bring to this university.