Higher education could not have advanced to its present state without diversity. Over the last 50+ years, elements of diversity (religion, gender, race, and ethnicity) within higher education created a need for new academies that provided new and advanced degree programming that met the social, cultural, and economic needs of the growing population. In this third iteration of her book, “Diversity’s Promise for Higher Education: Making It Work,” Dr. Daryl G. Smith provides the reader with a primer on the changing, complex nature of diversity and its importance to the health and survival of democracy and community.
The author provides the reader with a national and global context for diversity in higher education. She suggests the importance of viewing diversity to create a caring society based on unity and inclusion, rather than chaos. This involves being mindful of the changing demographics that transcend immigration to include different kinds of identities within the population. In addition, diversity impacts many political structures in relationship to access to power, suffrage, resources, and governmental decision-making. The result shows a direct connection of diversity engagement and the national interests of democracy and community.
To further explain the necessity for a more inclusive and differentiated diversity framework for higher education, Dr. Smith uses the imperative of technological changes in the world. These changes had to be embraced within higher education to educate an emerging technological society. This led to improved infrastructures for the new technologies within academia, which introduced technological advances in all curricula and new ways to deliver curricula to students. Despite the costs, there has been universal acceptance for building institutional capacity for technology throughout all campuses. To reframe diversity, she suggests that higher education must tackle diversity with the same rigor and urgency as it did with technology. Her diversity framework model seeks to include and address the many identities of diversity and cites the varied concerns related to each. At the heart of the model is the reframing of the mission to include diversity, which will create institutional vitality and a truly student-centered approach to aid the many underrepresented minority students (URMs) on campus.
In addition to mission, the model is comprised of four dimensions linked to mission:
- Institutional visibility and vitality: The basis of this dimension is on core institutional planning focused on the institution’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in its board; its faculty, staff, and students; its institutional strategies and resources; and its frameworks and indicators for monitoring diversity.
- Education and scholarship: This dimension’s focus is on the availability of diversity-related courses within the curriculum; faculty capacity and level of expertise on diversity to spearhead research in the study and impact of diversity in society; opportunities for student learning about diversity with the inclusion of capstone courses and dissertations about diversity.
- Campus climate and intergroup relations: This dimension concerns the type and quality of interaction among groups; levels of engagement on campus including personal satisfaction; and perceptions of how people are treated. For the centrality of diversity on campus, Smith suggests that it is best to disaggregate the data collected to find meaningful differences in the existing subpopulations.
- Access and success of underrepresented student populations: This dimension needs to transcend the usual success indicators (retention, graduation, and GPA) to include URMs who are thriving and engaged on campus. This can be reflected in their academic success in areas that provide them more access, encouragement, and assistance in all curricula.
Finally, “Diversity’s Promise for Higher Education: Making It Work”is necessary reading for everyone in all professions because it explains the complexity of diversity and what needs to be done to foster equity and inclusion within society. It makes sense that education, especially higher education, must move forward as the standard bearer for diversity. Higher education must be ready to rigorously accept the challenge of diversity’s promise for a better future.