The Illusion of Inclusion: The Impact Diversity Can Have on the Value of Your Education

In response to recent events, diversity appears to be at the top of the agenda for leaders in many industries.

By: Tamara Moore & Jake Hreha

In response to recent events, diversity appears to be at the top of the agenda for leaders in many industries. Higher education institutions are now amongst the many organizations embracing the sad reality that diversity or lack thereof is a real issue. There is a need for diverse schools made up of individuals from different backgrounds with diverse perspectives.

All too often, common myths and misconceptions hold us back from experiencing more fulfilling lives. To embrace diversity and inclusion and its benefits, we must first look at common terminology often misinterpreted.

Diversity refers to recognizing, respecting, and valuing differences in individuals and groups.

Inclusion, however, focuses on an individual's experience within their workplace and society and the extent to which that individual feels valued and included.

"Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice be heard." -LizFosslien

Depriving individuals due to hidden bias based on an individual's race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexuality, age, religion, mental/physical disabilities, and ethnicity has plagued our nation for far too long. We must understand why enforcing practices that do not serve the needs of all citizens is an illusion of inclusion and can no longer be overlooked. It is time for us to take a hard look at some of the reasons why higher education institutions are making this a priority.

One of the major historical events that helped begin the progress of diversity in the classroom was the end of racially segregated schools in 1954. This legal step helped increase classroom diversity but didn't solve all the problems of creating and collaborating within diverse learning environments. As of today from elementary school to college campuses there is still a need for cultural diversity in education.

One of the major issues today is a lack of knowledge of why diversity matters. Teaching diversity is not just knowing about gender identity, socioeconomic backgrounds, race, sexual orientation, religion, or different cultures. Learning about diversity means you begin to understand the value of different and divergent perspectives. You begin to see the positive outcomes of diverse groups and diverse cultures being a part of schools. When college students of different backgrounds come together, whether in the classroom environment or outside, they begin to learn from one another and the students gain a more comprehensive understanding of issues, questions, and ideas.

Why diversity in education enriches the experience.

It strengthens communities and workplaces. Education within a diverse setting helps prepare students to become good citizens in a society that is becoming more complex and more culturally diverse. A student population that reflects the ethnic diversity of the world is valuable. It fosters mutual respect and the ability to work as a team with people who see the world differently than you. Diverse peers have different ideas of how to solve problems, create solutions, and generate ideas. These all contribute to campus diversity in public schools or private schools. It helps build communities that judge its members by the quality of their character and contributions. School diversity also goes beyond education and career. It is preparing students for civic engagement and teaching them how to make the world a better place. Students benefit from understanding diversity and gain a broader perspective of the world through multicultural education and college diversity experiences.

Diversity in higher education improves communication and thought processing skills.

Diverse university communities open all students to various perspectives. These communities incite more robust critical thinking, problem-solving, and writing skills. According to the Center for American Progress, research shows that these experiences enable students to learn to communicate more effectively and often differently than they are previously accustomed to. Students in socioeconomically integrated schools gain unique perspectives from students of varying backgrounds. The educational benefits of socioeconomic diversity include working in an increasingly diverse world, finding academic success with people of different backgrounds, working with a diverse population that has different goals and different ideas of what success looks like, and much more. The benefits of diversity on student learning and the learning environment cannot be missed.

Diversity prepares students for future career success.

Today's diverse workforce requires sensitivity towards human differences and awareness. By experiencing diversity in college, you lay the groundwork for interacting with individuals with differing experiences and cultural backgrounds. It challenges stereotyped preconceptions, which promotes personal growth and a healthy society. Employers seek candidates that can view issues and problems from multiple angles and vantage points, which diverse experiences provide. Students who experience diversity in their classroom teachers and school administrators also are better prepared to work with people of different backgrounds. We live in a multicultural society that students have the ability to experience when we focus on promoting diversity and having an inclusive classroom.

Diversity increases positive learning outcomes.

Diversity must start from the top down. Colleges must share the belief that a more diverse executive leadership team, staff, faculty, curriculum, and student body are essential to fulfill their mission on diversity and provide a high-quality education experience. Students experiences are greatly influenced by the choices and different perspectives of university leadership. ABC News' data team found when racial disparity was present in schools, it resulted in students feeling isolated and discouraged to continue their education, affecting graduation, cognitive skills, and retention rates.

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

We learn most from those whose personal beliefs, life experiences, and perspectives are different from our own. Knowledge is a crucial step before understanding, accepting, and appreciating. The important work starts with ourselves, our level of openness, our awareness, and facts on diversity.

Here are four tips on how you can become more diverse, inclusive, and open:

1. Educate yourself.

Read books and articles on other races, cultures, genders, religions, etc., to learn about those unlike you.
Listen to interviews, podcasts, and stories of those whose views are different than yours.
Watch movies and shows that depict lifestyles that are unfamiliar to you.
Enroll in a class that may be outside of your comfort zone.
Follow Instagram accounts, YouTubers, bloggers, etc., to help better understand marginalization, discrimination, and exclusion.

2. Evaluate your circle.

Does your circle of friends and family reflect the larger society? If not, start attending festivals. Join an organization, club, community, or social media group that brings diverse individuals together. Visit museums that may enrich your knowledge of a culture or group that may challenge your assumptions. These experiences open the door for you to befriend people of different ages, races, gender, etc.

3. Address your own implicit biases and hold yourself accountable.

You can’t help your upbringing or fault yourself for the implicit biases that have been ingrained in us by society. Still, you can educate yourself and change your conversation to result in inclusivity.

4. Be aware of your privileges.

Talking about privileges can often be challenging and very uncomfortable. However, this is critical to shifting our attitudes to become more inclusive. We must acknowledge how these systems of privilege work and where we position ourselves within them. According to the same system, consider the impact on individuals situated in less privileged positions. We must ensure all voices are represented and heard.

Richly diverse intellectual and social environments are the cornerstones of improving our society and economy. The diversity we seek and the future of our nation depends on colleges and universities continuing to make conscious efforts to build diverse and inclusive learning environments. As we strive to develop a national community, it is all of our responsibility to better prepare for being sensitive and appreciative of various ethnicities, cultures, and identities. We must not forget the value of our education goes beyond the number of degrees we obtain. It's time we make a difference and be the difference.

Tamara Moore

Associate Director of Enrollment, IWU National and Global

Tamara Moore, an Indianapolis native, completed her collegiate studies at Tennessee State University in Nashville, where she connected and networked with individuals from diverse backgrounds, both inside and outside of the classroom. Tamara’s innate passion for learning has sparked creativity, courage, and a burning desire to help others - traits that serve her well as Associate Director of Enrollment. Tamara’s belief that faith and fear cannot coincide grew tremendously in 2016 when she decided to utilize her God-given talents to start an event planning and interior design company. No matter how full her plate is, her heart is most complete when spending time with her husband, Chuck, her 14 year old daughter, Kennedy, and the newest miracle of her family, Karrington.

Jake Hreha

SEO Copywriter, IWU

Jake Hreha is a graduate of Ball State University, where he majored in advertising with a concentration in media presentation and design. He is passionate about design, and in his free time he enjoys cycling, traveling, and reading.

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