A diverse campus improves education for everyone

(02-26-2009)

We've all heard the Chinese wish: "May you live in interesting times." November 's election culminated one of the most interesting campaigns I can remember. The first Presidential election I voted in was in 1972. Subsequent elections have only occasionally given me hope that our country can become a better, more accepting, caring place. Rather, fear, division, and greed have become the hallmark modern political interpretation of the American Dream.

President Obama has stated a vision which is positive and inclusive, and his higher education platform seems to promise more support, although financial relief appears unlikely in the near future. Obama's most immediate contribution is a symbolic but very important one for our students: that diverse individuals from limited circumstances can attend college and become leaders and influential citizens.

The Adams State student body is highly diverse. Forty percent of undergraduates are non-white; 55 percent are female. A Hispanic Serving Institution, ASC has an undergraduate population that is 31% Hispanic, almost half of whom are first-generation college students. Our fall 2007 freshmen class was the most diverse, by percentage, of any four-year institution in Colorado.

National data demonstrate the educational advantages of campus diversity. The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) considers it essential to an enriching educational experience. It found Adams State students far surpass their peers in reporting having a serious conversation with students of another race or ethnicity or with other religion/politics/values.

Two years ago, a study conducted by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) found Adams State had the third highest Hispanic graduation rate of all its 435 member institutions. AASCU credited our diverse campus and commitment to student success, noting that Hispanic students tend to flourish academically in an environment with other Hispanic students. Adams State's "culture of caring" is based on a student support system that includes curriculum revisions, intrusive and integrated advising, freshman interest groups, academic success courses, and academic support. This environment helps all of our students succeed, regardless of racial group or economic classification.

Too often we think solely in racial terms when considering diversity. During Diversity Week last semester, the campus explored many factors that, unfortunately, can lead to discrimination: age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, social and economic class, ethnic and cultural background, physical disability. Moving beyond stereotypes permits us to recognize the value of individuals and foster their unique strengths and perspectives. Adams State's commitment to diversity not only helps our graduates negotiate a complex world, it expands the spectrum of human resources available to address today's challenges.