Why does diversity matter and what does it mean for the University of La Verne?
Various studies1,3,5 have articulated the importance diversity makes to a well-rounded education. These authors outline how problems and challenges have been addressed by the inclusion of diverse perspectives and experiences that offered new insights, solutions, and overall benefit to all students.
The University of La Verne, situated in one of the most diverse and dynamic areas (Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area and the fast-growing San Bernardino County), reflects the demographic make-up of its community. With such richness in student diversity and surrounding area, the university understands the tremendous benefits for learning and accessing first-hand experiences that ultimately enrich the understanding and life of each student, academically and socially.
Furthermore, La Verne integrates the concept of valuing diversity with its university mission statement:
The university promotes the goal of community within a context of diversity. The university, therefore, encourages students to understand and appreciate the diversity of cultures which exists locally, nationally, and internationally.
La Verne also has an extended but connected nuance to diversity: “It seeks to promote appreciation of biodiversity by helping students understand the impact/dependence of human beings on their environment.”
What does this mean?
It means we are on a journey attempting to learn what it means to be an inclusive learning community, where we care enough for each other that we engage each other in meaningful dialogue about inclusion and justice and are mindful of the impact our presence has on the environment we inhabit and how we use and allocate resources.
Cultural competency: A continuing enterprise
We have not reached our full potential in providing the range of services to meet the needs of our diverse constituencies on campus. This is part of our journey together as a diverse learning community. However, in a conscious effort to move in the direction of meeting their needs, the university created and has moved to implement a campus-wide University Strategic Plan on Diversity. Even with this plan in place, La Verne has continued to have listening sessions where students are given an opportunity to raise issues of concern.
During the time that the University Strategic Plan on Diversity was drawn up, the Office of Multicultural Services (now renamed the Center for Multicultural Services) undertook a departmental administrative review which produced a lengthy document highlighting areas of challenge and promise for services provided. This document outlines Action Recommendations and Action Plans for addressing a range of identified issues relating to diversity in general, but specifically to the areas that were identified for review. The areas that were identified for review include: 1) Cultural Clubs, 2) Workshops/Training, 3) First Generation Student Success Program, and 4) Cultural Graduation Celebrations. The document can be accessed at the Multicultural Services Administrative Review.
One of the major outcomes of the Administrative Review document was the call by stakeholders for an additional person to assist the Office of Multicultural Services in supporting the mission of creating a diverse learning community with the programs and services needed.
The changing demographics of the university
The following demographic comparison of the years 2010 and 2016 is offered as a snapshot which showcases rapid shifts in student enrollment numbers.
Statistics for 2010 highlight the demographic make-up of the University of La Verne to reflect 36.5% Latina/o student population, 33.8% White student population, 10.3% Black/African American student population, 11.6% Asian/Pacific Islander, 0.9% American Indian/Alaska Native student population, 0.4% International, and 6.5% Other (Fact Book 2006-2010). Gender make up reflects 61.2% women, and 37.8% men student population.
Comparison Group: University (Fall 2016) demographic profile (six-year duration)
Fall 2016 statistics, highlight the demographic make-up of the University of La Verne to reflect 44.5% Latina/o student population, 19.5% White student population, 5.8% Black/African American student population, 4.7% Asian/Pacific Islander, 0.3% American Indian/Alaska Native student population, 7.6% International, and 17.5% Other (Fact Book 2012-2016). Gender make up reflects 60.1% women, and 38.5% men student population. These numbers will continue to evolve and change as the university undergoes unparalleled growth in the coming years.
This glimpse of the student population showcases the ongoing need to provide continued service to a changing demographic. The learning experience afforded through the student-to-student interaction is one of the benefits of having such a richly diverse student population. At the same time, the university recognizes there is a greater obligation and responsibility to understand and serve the diverse student population. This is an ongoing task.
University Strategic Plan on Diversity
In fall 2010, La Verne drafted and had approved by its Board of Trustees a University Strategic Plan on Diversity. The significance of this plan was that it outlined several goals for implementation during the first year which included the hiring of a Chief Diversity Officer to oversee all diversity efforts across the university, both in the academic and administrative units (this person has been brought on board).
The initiating committee that drafted the Strategic Plan on Diversity was part of the President’s Workgroup on Diversity which was made up of the President’s Office, Provost’s Office, representatives from each of the academic colleges (CAS, CBPM, LFCE, and COL), the Coalition for Diversity, and the Office of Multicultural Services (now Center for Multicultural Services). There was also an accordion process done with the faculty, staff, students, and alumni to ascertain their input before being finalized.
Since the Center for Multicultural Services was among the stakeholders who drafted the document and definition of diversity, it is appropriate to embrace the definition of diversity as it was defined in the Strategic Plan on Diversity.
How have we defined diversity?
Diversity, as defined in the Strategic Plan on Diversity, and as embraced by the Center for Multicultural Services, is an operational definition of diversity:
Diversity is an active and intentional commitment to support and embrace difference and multiplicity for the sake of expanding knowledge, educating capable citizens, developing the whole person, and serving our local and global communities. Promoting and sustaining diversity is a commitment to educational quality, social justice, and the creation of positive, respectful communities. Diversity means more than just acknowledging and/or tolerating difference. Diversity is a set of conscious practices that involve:
- understanding and appreciating the interdependence of humanity, cultures, and the natural environment;
- practicing mutual respect for qualities and experiences that are different from our own;
- understanding that diversity includes not only ways of being but also ways of knowing;
- recognizing personal, cultural and institutionalized discrimination creates and sustains privileges for some while creating and sustaining disadvantages for others;
- addressing practices that perpetuate discrimination and unfair treatment while also instituting other practices that support diversity and diverse people; and
- building alliances across differences so that we can work together to eradicate all forms of discrimination.
Mission statement for Diversity
Critical to the Strategic Plan on Diversity and to supporting the definition of diversity, is the “Mission Statement for Diversity”:
The University of La Verne is committed to providing a quality, personalized educational experience for leadership and participation in a diverse society to a student population that reflects the full diversity of this country. This commitment is achieved through creating a climate that supports diversity, social justice and sensitivity to global interdependence. The University will engage our students, faculty, staff and the broader external community to achieve this campus climate.
Who initiates diversity efforts at the University of La Verne?
The hope is everyone will initiate diversity efforts, but this idea of everyone leaves a void of responsibility and accountability.
It is wonderful to point out that we now have a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) – Dr. Beatriz Gonzalez, Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer in charge of overseeing the Office of Diversity and Inclusivity (ODI). There currently is a growth and exponential expansion of ODI with persons that will be focused on working with multiple academic initiatives with the University and colleges specifically.
This expansion has meant the hiring of Aracely Torres, M.S.Ed., Assistant Director, Diversity and Inclusivity, along with five faculty fellows who are engaed with the various academic units. These faculty fellows are: Issac Carter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Education, Heidy Contreras, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology, Placido Gomez, J.D., Professor of Law, Sylvia Mac, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Education and Special Education Programs, and Adonay Montes, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education.
In addition to the CDO, CMS, under the direction of Dr. Daniel Loera, Director of Multicultural Affairs, and Misty Levingston, Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs are is primarily focused on providing learning opportunities and support to students, in a non-formal classroom setting. CMS now has a space that provides students with a much needed central hub. The intent is not to be identified as the singular initiator of diversity related programming, but to be an identifiable location and office accountable to initiate and support diversity related efforts across the campus community. There are many partners on campus involved in supporting and providing a range of complementary programs and initiatives focused on diversity at the University of La Verne, including Housing and Residential Life, Office of Student Life, and Office of Diversity and Inclusivity.
Partners in diversity related initiatives include: the Coalition for Diversity (faculty and staff coalition), Faculty Diversity Committee (faculty senate), the Multicultural Club Council (student umbrella leadership group representing all cultural clubs and organizations on campus), Diversity Task Force (key faculty/staff representing key areas on campus), academic units, student clubs on campus, various department diversity chairs/liaisons including Campus Activities Board (CAB), and Residential Housing Association (RHA).
Each of these collaborative partner organizations and committees has their own special emphasis which complement the overall efforts of working toward becoming a culturally inclusive life-long diverse learning community.
Opportunities for Involvement
If you are eager to fully educate yourself in a holistic fashion, with the richness of diversity at your disposal, then you are encouraged to engage yourself in the life and collaboration of the many cultural clubs on campus. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join the clubs and organizations you desire. You don’t have to self-identify with a particular club in order to join. It is very encouraging to have students from various backgrounds join the numerous clubs and organizations that make-up the university community.
A core value the University of La Verne upholds is valuing diversity and being a life-long inclusive learning community. Much of what individuals learn and hold as memories comes from active involvement in clubs and organizations.
The cultural clubs and organizations available at the University of La Verne (many of these clubs have other offices or departments supporting them, but are part of the rich diversity of clubs and organizations on campus):
- Black Student Union (student support group for African American students)
- Brothers’ Forum (student support club for African American males and men of color)
- First Generation Club
- International Student Organization (student support club for international students)
- Kanaka Hui Ohana (student support club for Hawaiian students)
- Latino Student Forum (student support club for Latina/o students)
- Multicultural Club Council (umbrella club for all multicultural clubs on campus)
- Muslim Student Association (student support club for Muslim students)
- Gay Straight Alliance (student support club for LGBTQ and Allies)
- Saudi Student Association (student support club for Saudi Arabian students)
- SACNAS (Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science)
- Shades of Essence (student support club for African American females and women of color)
Other student participation opportunities
All program initiatives have the goal of creating awareness of the gifts and talents of the diverse University of La Verne community, and at the same time of challenging racism, sexism, classism, ableism, heterosexism, homophobia, xenophobia, inter-religious bigotry and other forms of privilege and oppression.
- Human Relations/Diversity Retreats (Fall & Spring). These retreat opportunities offer students an opportunity to experience a three-day residential hands-on experiential learning process around human relations topics, including exploration of stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and oppression (cycle of oppression). Ultimately working toward creating awareness and opportunities for dismantling systems of oppression and becoming advocates for each other.
- Expand the support of awareness month celebrations: (Inclusive of Latino Heritage Month, Indigenous History Month, Black History Month, Womyn’s Herstory Month, Asian/Pacific Islander History Month, and Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual History Month). This will be done primarily through collaborative ventures with student clubs and other organizations on and off campus.
- Peer Facilitation Training: (prerequisite that students have attended the Diversity Retreat). The Peer Facilitation Training consists of 5 four-hour training sessions leading up to each of the Diversity Retreats (fall and spring). Students wishing to participate must attend a minimum of 3 out of the 5 sessions.
- In collaboration with Multicultural Club Council, offer various external community learning experiences/tours (e.g., Museum of Tolerance, Manzanar, etc.).
- Expand services to be inclusive of CAPA, graduate students, ROC, and College of Law sites.
- Cultural Resource Library (books, videos, magazines, journals, event board)
- Volunteer and Internship opportunities with CMS
- Sponsor: Safe-Zone Trainings
- Resources (internship, scholarships, conference clearing house)
- Evaluate, assess, and research programs and best practices
- Support the Latino Education Access Development (LEAD) Conference
- Participation in Annual California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education—sponsored by the CSU Chancellor’s Office, for exploring graduate school options
- Movie nights at the Center of Multicultural Services
- Undocumented Student Resources
- Astin, A. W. (1993ª). Diversity and multiculturalism on campus: How are Students affected? Change, 25(2), 44-49.
- Cao, Yl, Der-Kerabetian, A., Schirmer, J., Schmitt, B., Irwin, J., Ramos, F., & Holfer, P. (2011). University of La Verne Fact Book 2006-2010 10th Edition.
- Gurin, P., Dey E. L., Hurtado, S., & Gurin, G. (2002). Diversity in higher education: theory and impact on educational outcomes. Harvard Educational Review. 72(3), 330-366.
- Moore, L., Shabahang, H., Schirmer, J., Carter, A., Case, L., & Ramos, F. (2017). University of La Verne Fact Book 2012-2016.
- Pascarella, E. T., Edison, M., Nora, A., Hagedorn, L. S., & Terenzini, P. T. (1996). Influences on student’s openness to diversity and challenge in the first year of college. Journal of Higher Education, 67, 174-195.