Colleges around the nation, which even if still predominately White, are beginning to grow more diverse (Orfield, Bachmeier, James, & Eitle, 1997)
While minorities are entering academia with higher frequency, the majority of these students are still learning in homogeneous environments, and most often in predominantly White institutions, (Carter & Wilson, 1993; Orfield & Lee, 2006)
Banks (2002) stressed the importance of creating citizens and leaders who are familiar with the democratic emphasis of the 21st century and who personally can stand for a just and fair environment
Perceptions of a poor campus climate in terms of diversity can have an adverse effect to students’ academic and social success (Sáenz, Marcoulides, Junn, & Young, 1999)
Feelings of poor racial climate on college campuses lead to a reduced sense of belonging, while positive interactions with diverse peers resulted in a greater sense of belonging across racial lines (Locks, et. al., 2008)
Astin’s theory of involvement, (1993) explains that belonging is imperative to interaction, involvement, and eventual success for college students.
Locks (et. al, 2008) also found that socializing with diverse groups, both for White and ethnic minority students, contributed to feelings of belonging
“For democracy to function successfully in the future, students must be prepared to understand their own identities, communicate with people who are different than themselves, and build bridges across cultural differences in the transition to a more diverse society” (Checkoway, 2001, p.267)
Zuniga defines “Racial/cultural engagement” as, “students’ awareness and knowledge about diversity issues and motivation to participate in activities that promote racial understanding” (et. al., 2005, p.661)
Through diversity, students grew in learning outcomes, having to do with cognition, ways of thinking, critical conceptualizing, intellectual engagement, and other related skills. (Gurin,1999; Gurin & Associates, 2002)
Students were also found to show growth in democratic outcomes which represent a commitment to civic and social responsibility, acceptance and understanding of differences, and perspective taking (Gurin, et. al., 2002)
Students who reported having positive interactions with diverse peers also showed higher measures of complex thinking about other people and their behaviors, perspective-taking capabilities, cultural and social awareness, as well as an increased interest in the overall public good, poverty issues, and “democratic sensibilities’ (Hurtado, 2007, p. 192)
These changes in thinking lead to the outward actions that defend others, stand for justice, and create a type of citizen that is needed in the current diverse democracy that we live in. (West, 1999)
The Importance of Multicultural Centers & Their Initiatives
Milem and Umbach (2003) identify three types of campus programs that have been shown to impact student outcomes: structural diversity, or the actual racial/cultural make-up of the campus; diverse interactions, consisting of formal and in-formal opportunities for cross-group interactions; and diversity-related initiatives, such as courses focused on issues of race/ethnicity, workshops, and facilitated dialogues
Facilitated intergroup dialogue has many positive effects including positive interactions with peers, increased perspective taking-skills, interests in issues of poverty and democracy, and the development of a pluralistic orientation (Saenz, 2005; Hurtado & Associates, 2007)
Multicultural centers are important in the facilitation of cross-race interactions since most ethnic organizations and programs are housed by these departments and are important in affirming a sense of identity in students of color (Hurtado & Associates, 1998)
Multicultural centers should ensure that students of underrepresented populations have the adequate support to succeed academically, that they are building relationships with diverse people leading to multicultural competences, that the student is equipped to participate in the current pluralistic global democracy, and that students of color have increased participation and leadership in the overall campus life (Hurtado, 2003).
While “enlightenment,” or that which takes place in forms of learning or instruction, is important, it is imperative that it is coupled with “encountering,” which is experientially gained through cross-group dialogue, immersion, or diverse collaborations. Through this, students will be lead to commitments to social justice, inclusion, and the diminution of their own prejudices (Dovido & Associates, 2004)
Structured activities and facilitated events can give students practical tools and preparation for difficult conversations or interactions, which will lead them in the direction of social justice, critical thinking, and the ability to challenge their own and others’ prejudices. (Zúñiga et. al., 2005)
About the Office - Multi-Ethnic Programs (MEP) - Azusa Pacific University. (n.d.). A Top Christian college in southern California - Azusa Pacific University. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from http://www.apu.edu/mep/about/
Astin, A. W. (1993). What matters in college: Four critical years revisited. San Francisco:
Banks, J. A. (2002). An introduction to multicultural education (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Carter, D. J., & Wilson, R. (1993). Minorities in higher education: Eleventh annual status report. Washington DC: American Council on Education
Checkoway, B. (2001). Renewing the civic mission of the American research university. Journal of Higher Education, 72(2), 145–147.
Dovidio, J., Gaertner, S., Stewart, T., Esses, V., ten Vergert, M., & Hodson, G. (2004). From intervention to outcome: Processes in the reduction of bias. In W. G. Stephan & W. P. Vogt (Eds.), Education programs for improving intergroup relations (pp. 243-279). New York: Teachers College Press.
Gilliard, M. D. (1996). Racial climate and institutional support factors affecting success in predominantly White Institutions: An examination of African American and White student experiences. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan.
Gurin, P. (1999). Selections from “The Compelling Need for Diversity in Higher Education,” Expert reports in defense of the University of Michigan. Equity and Excellence in Education, 32(2), 36-62.
Gurin, P., Dey, E. L., Hurtado, S., & Gurin, G. (2002). Diversity and higher education: Theory and impact on educational outcomes. Harvard EducationalReview, 72(3), 330–366.
Hurtado, S. (2003). Preparing college students for a diverse democracy: Final Report to the U.S. Department of Education, OERI, Field Initiated Studies Program. Ann Arbor, MI: Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education.
Hurtado, S. (2007). Linking diversity with the educational and civic missions of higher education. The Review of Higher Education,30(2), 185-196.
Hurtado, S., Han, J. C., Sáenz, V. B., Espinosa, L., Cabrera, N., & Cerna, O. (2007). Predicting transition and adjustment to college: Biomedical and behavioral science aspirants’ and minority students’ first year of college. Research in Higher Education, 48(7), 841–887.
Hurtado, S., Milem, J., Clayton-Pedersen, A., & Allen, W. (1998). Enhancing campus climates for racial/ethnic diversity: Educational policy and practice. The Review of Higher Education, 21(3), 279-302.
Locks, A. M., Hurtado, S., Bowman, N. A., & Oseguera, L. (2008). Extending notions of campus climate and diversity to students’. The Review of Higher Education, 31(3), 257-285.
Milem, J. F., & Umbach, P. D. (2003). The influence of precollege factors on students’ preattitudes regarding diversity activities in college. Journal of College Student Development,
Multi-Ethnic Programs (MEP) - Azusa Pacific University. (n.d.). A top Christian college in southern California - Azusa Pacific University. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from http://www.apu.edu/mep/
Orfield, G., Bachmeier, M., James, D. R., & Eitle, T. (1997). Deepening segregation in American public schools: A special report from the Harvard Project on School Desegregation. Equity and Excellence in Education, 30(2), 5–24.
Orfield, G., & Lee, C. (2006). Racial transformation and the changing nature of segregation. Cambridge, MA: The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University.
Sáenz, T., Marcoulides, G. A., Junn, E., & Young, R. (1999). The relationship between college experiences and academic performance among minority students. International Journal of Educational Management, 13(4), 199–207.
West, C. (1999). The moral obligation of living in a democratic society. In D. Batstone & E. Mendieta (Eds.), The good citizen. New York: Routledge.
Zuniga, X., Williams, E. A., & Berger, J. B. (2005). Action-Oriented democratic outcomes: the impact of student. Journal of College Student Development,46(6), 660-678.