Chapter 7: Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion

Importance of diversity in college

One of the many benefits of college is the people you meet and will be able to work with. Students are able to practice interacting with people from many different cultures, backgrounds, and life experiences. As you think about your professional identity, consider the value and importance of being able to work collaboratively with diverse groups of people. We have discussed the importance of communicating with your professors and how important networking is to your current and future career path. Remember that you have an opportunity within your educational journey to practice these skills now. How are you stepping out of your comfort zone to meet and engage with people of different backgrounds? Are you finding ways to interact with a diverse circle of people?

Whether you grew up in a diverse community or a community where people looked like you, the college offers the opportunity to enhance your circle of connection and experience.

Photo of three people from ethnically diverse backgrounds sitting in a row. The woman closest to the camera holds a microphone, a woman in a burka sits next to her, and a man in a suit is at the end.
Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.                                                  —Malcolm Forbes, entrepreneur, founder of Forbes magazine

What Is Diversity?

What does diversity mean? Better yet, what does diversity mean to you? What does it mean to your best friend, your teacher, your parents, your religious leader, or the person standing behind you in a grocery store?

Diversity means different things to different people, and it can be understood differently in different environments. In the context of your college experience, diversity generally refers to people around you who differ by race, culture, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, abilities, opinions, political views, and in other ways.

Describing your ethnicity

How would you describe your ethnicity? How do you recognize other people who share your ethnicity?

Watch the following video to see how others describe those that share their ethnicity:

Surface Diversity and Deep Diversity

Surface diversity and deep diversity are categories of personal attributes, or differences in attributes, that people perceive to exist between people or groups of people.

Surface-level diversity refers to differences like ethnicity, race, gender, age, culture, language, and ability, in other words, traits that are quickly observable in a person. People often make subtle judgments at the same time they identify these differences, which can lead to bias or discrimination. For example, if a teacher believes that older students perform better than younger students and then gives slightly higher grades to the older students than the younger students, this is a biased action based on the perception of the attribute of age, which is surface-level diversity.

Deep-level diversity, on the other hand, reflects differences that are less visible, like personality, attitudes, belief systems, and values. These attributes are generally communicated verbally and nonverbally, so they are not easily noticeable or measurable. Deep-level diversity in a classmate may not be noticeable until you get to know him or her, at which point you may find that you are either comfortable with these deeper character levels or not. But once students gain this deeper level of awareness, they focus less on surface diversity. For example: At the beginning of a term, a classmate belonging to a minority ethnic group whose native language is not English (surface diversity) may be treated differently by fellow classmates in another ethnic group, but as the term gets underway, classmates begin discovering the person’s values and beliefs (deep-level diversity), which they find they are comfortable with. The surface-level attributes of language and perhaps skin color become less noticeable as comfort is gained with deep-level attributes.

Reflecting on who you are

  • When we are open to learning about who we are by acknowledging our diverse traditions, cultures, and backgrounds, then we can embrace our own stories and the stories of others.
  • Think about your story and how it relates to the stories of others. Write a brief reflection that addresses some of the following ideas. What groups do you belong to? Where have you lived and how has that influenced your identity? What did your parents or caregivers pass down to you, and how do these factors influence your education? How can learning about the experiences and backgrounds of others enrich you personally and professionally? How can it contribute to a culture of civility and respect?

Diversity Facts and Benefits

Diversity matters in college because when you are exposed to new ideas, viewpoints, customs, and perspectives, which invariably happens when you come in contact with diverse groups of people, your frame of reference for understanding the world expands. Your thinking becomes more open and global. You become comfortable working and interacting with people of all nationalities and gain a new knowledge base as you learn from people who are different from yourself. You think “harder” and more creatively and begin to perceive in new ways, seeing issues and problems from new angles. You can absorb and consider a wider range of options, and your values may be enriched. In short, diversity contributes to your education.

Consider the following facts about diversity in the United States:

  1. The caucasian population is expected to drop to 63% of the total U.S. population.
  2. Projected growth from Asian, Hispanic, and multiracial groups will turn traditionally underrepresented populations into majority groups by 2044.
  3. By 2065, the U.S. will not have any single ethnic or racial majorities.
  4. Only 40% of women feel satisfied with the decision-making process at their organization.
  5. 57% of employees think their company should be doing more to increase diversity.
  6. 41% of managers state they are “too busy” to implement any kind of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  7. Men are twice as likely to get hired, regardless of the hiring manager’s gender.
  8. Women are much more likely to be hired with blind applications.
  9. African Americans are 50% less likely to receive callbacks compared to white candidates.
  10. 7.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.
  11. Highly gender-diverse executive teams are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability.
  12. Gender-diverse companies that are also in the top-quartile for gender-diverse executive boards are 27% more likely to have superior value creation.
  13. 85% of CEOs with diverse and inclusive cultures notice increased profits.
  14. Companies with equal men and women earn 41% more revenue.
  15. Racially and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to perform better.
  16. Diverse teams are 70% more likely to capture new markets.
  17. Diverse teams are 87% better at making decisions.
  18. Inclusive companies are 1.7x more innovative.
  19. Companies that have a highly inclusive culture have 2.3x more cash flow per employee.
  20. Inclusive companies are 120% more likely to hit financial goals.

According to Fundera, the source of the information above, “Companies have discussed diversity and inclusion in the workplace [and colleges] for decades, and yet, the American workforce still struggles to represent the country’s true diversity.  In recent years, diversity and inclusion have become some of the hottest topics in business HR and recruiting. As social movements grow and demand positive change, workplaces [and colleges] should be at the forefront of building a more inclusive future—and not just because it’s the right thing to do. Companies with a wide representation of people of different races, genders, ages, and religion have a leg up on the competition, and the data above supports that point.” Visit their website for an in-depth discussion and additional sources for each of the points above.

All in all, diversity brings richness to relationships on- and off-campus, offers many benefits to companies, and further prepares college students to thrive and work in a multicultural world.

Inclusivity in practice

This activity will help you examine ways in which you can develop your awareness of and commitment to diversity on campus. Answer the following questions to the best of your ability:

  • What are my plans for expanding myself personally and intellectually in college?
  • What kind of community will help me expand most fully, with diversity as a factor in my expansion?
  • What are my comfort zones, and how might I expand them to connect more diversely?
  • Do I want to be challenged by new viewpoints, or only connect with people who are like me?
  • What are my biggest questions about diversity?

Consider the following strategies to help you answer the questions:

  • Examine extracurricular activities. Can you get involved with clubs or organizations that promote and expand diversity?
  • Review your college’s curriculum. In what ways does it reflect diversity? Does it have departments and courses on historically unrepresented peoples, such as cultural and ethnic studies or gender and sexuality studies? Look for study-abroad programs, as well.
  • Read your college’s mission statement. Read the mission statement of other colleges. How do they match up with your values and beliefs? How do they align with the value of diversity?
  • Inquire of friends, faculty, colleagues, family. Be open about diversity. What does diversity mean to others? What positive effects has it had on them? Ask people about diversity.
  • Explore different faith communities in your local area. Speak with someone about their beliefs and practices.
  • Research diversity, perhaps by consulting college literature, websites, resource centers, and organizations on campus.
There is only one way to look at things until someone shows us how to look at them with different eyes. – Pablo Picasso

How Do You Add to the Diversity at MCC?

MCC has a diverse student body, so you will likely take classes with students from many walks of life. Which of these categories best describe you and your fellow students?

Traditional Students

Traditional undergraduate students typically enroll in college immediately after graduating from high school, and they attend classes on a continuous full-time basis at least during the fall and spring semesters. Traditional students are also typically financially dependent on others such as their parents, do not have children, and consider their college career to be their primary responsibility. They may be employed only on a part-time basis, if at all, during the academic year.

Nontraditional Students

Nontraditional students do not enter college in the same calendar year that they finish high school. They may not have a high school diploma, or they may have received a general educational development degree (GED). Some nontraditional students attend classes part-time due to full-time work obligations, or they may be full-time students who approach their education in much the same way they would a job. They are more likely to be financially independent, to have children, and/or to be caregivers of sick or elderly family members. A growing number of students are nontraditional, so it may be that the nontraditional student is becoming the norm, especially at community colleges.

English Language Learners

English Language Learners (ELLs) are students whose first language is not English and who may take ESOL courses to improve their English skills. These students may be here temporarily on international student visas, or they may be immigrant, refugee, or Puerto Rican students who are permanently living in the United States.  Not all of these students take ESOL classes.  Some students have strong enough skills to test directly into college-level English courses.  Some international students may be native English speakers, like Canadians, for example. All of these students enrich our MCC campus by adding cultural diversity and offering unique perspectives. Consider joining MCC’s Global Union if you are interested in connecting with international, immigrant, refugee, and Puerto Rican students.

First-Generation College Students

First-generation students do not have a parent who graduated from college. College life may be less familiar to them, and the preparation for entering college may not have been stressed as a priority at home. Some time and support may be needed for first-generation students to become accustomed to the college environment. These students may experience a cultural shift between school life and home life because their families are generally unfamiliar with the outside of class and paperwork requirements of attending college.

Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities have a wide range of skills, abilities, and strengths. These individuals may have various diagnoses including but not limited to the areas of neurological, physical, psychological, and medical conditions. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the College ensures that admission, services, activities, facilities, and academic programs are accessible to and usable by qualified students with disabilities.

Monroe Community College provides a mainstreamed learning environment for students who identify themselves as having a disability with Disability Services office. MCC Disability Services staff are committed to providing accommodations and collaborating with the College community to ensure equal access for students on an individual basis. Students must be able to function independently, are responsible for informing the College of their individual needs, and must provide the appropriate accommodation documentation for services. Reasonable accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis.

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Working Students

Many students are employed in either a part-time or full-time capacity. While balancing college life with work-life may be a challenge, time management skills and good organization can help. These students juggle being a student and being an employee, which can be very much like working two jobs at one time.

Commuter Students

While there are many advantages to living on campus, many students choose to live off-campus and commute to class. This may be convenient or necessary for students who have a full set of responsibilities and/or off-campus jobs. Commuting may also suit students who choose to live at home with parents to avoid room and board fees. Many returning students are commuter students, too, and may come on campus only for classes. At some colleges, like urban and rural schools, commuting to campus may be the only option.

Online Students

Over 8,000 MCC students take online courses every year, with some students electing to earn part or all of their degree online. Each semester, MCC offers over 140 different courses through the OPEN SUNY system, which allows classes to be taught over the Internet. Several degrees at MCC can be completed fully online including Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Mathematics, Sports Management, and more, and other degrees can be completed 50-75% online. Fully online students are not required to come to campus, so they access MCC’s resources through the MCC website and myMCC.

Student similarities and differences

Reflect on your observations about students at MCC.

  • Think about your favorite class this term and about your fellow students in that class. Make a list of all the similarities with them that you sense, feel, or notice.
  • Then make a list of all the differences between you that you sense, feel, or notice.
  • What do these similarities and differences mean to you?

Now, check out the data on the student population at MCC: Who We Are Facts

  • What is interesting to you about the data? What is something you already knew? What surprises you?


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