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.
Bearing that trend in mind, cultural diversity awareness should be a priority for any modern campus. However, making that goal a reality is more easily said than done.
What Steps Can Your Campus Take?
Setting the tone
One of the key ingredients to promoting cultural diversity awareness is to make tolerance and inclusion a priority on your campus. Establish school-wide policies that outline student and faculty conduct and that make it clear that discriminatory and harassing behavior are not welcome on campus. Then communicate these standards to students, clearly defining what actions are and are not appropriate.
At the same time, evaluate admissions and administrative guidelines with a focus on identifying and removing any unintentionally discriminatory policies. By making cultural awareness a priority from the top down, you can more easily establish an environment of inclusion and tolerance throughout your school.
Degrees of education
Several universities now offer courses specifically designed to foster cultural awareness, with some schools making these programs mandatory for undergraduate degrees.
Other campuses provide optional programs that encourage and promote 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.”
Make it a party
Many colleges schedule special events 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 building cultural bridges.
Back in 2011, the University of Leiden held a “Subculture Fashion Show” during the school’s 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 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 marketplace and society as a whole.
Ideally, this 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 such as through bystander intervention.
Hofstra University is taking a rather unique approach to encouraging cultural diversity on its campus, leveraging of 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 artistic pieces from around the globe that are contained within the museum. Each poster provides additional information regarding the piece and the 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 campuses grow more diverse, fostering an inclusive, civil culture only becomes more of a priority. By exposing your students to the plurality of opinions, cultures, and backgrounds found in the modern workforce, your school can better equip them to succeed in the workforce 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.