Making diversity an institutional value : a look at five similar institutions of higher education In Texas

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Lowery, LaTanya Denell

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Prior research reveals that today’s students must develop a respect for diversity to function effectively in a global environment; otherwise they will be unlikely to succeed in the 21st century (Bikson & Law, 1994; University of Michigan Fortune 500 Amicus Brief, 1999; Abraham Lincoln Commission on Study Abroad, 2005). Unfortunately, many see diversity as having a mandatory acceptance policy attached to it. This view places the concept of diversity into a negative category. To help shift that negative slant a strategic effort is required to assist with redefining what diversity means and why acceptance of diversity adds value to an institution of higher education.
Universities and colleges are comprised of staff, faculty, and students from differing backgrounds. Therefore it is important to maintain an environment that is conducive of respect, openness, and inclusion for all constituents served. By advancing that vision an institution can remain competitive and viable in today’s economy. As a commitment to promoting awareness of and appreciation for different types of diversity, many post-secondary Boards of Trustees and senior administrators are incorporating campus-wide diversity initiatives into every aspect of the campus framework (Ward, 2009). Specifically, senior-level positions referred to as Chief Diversity Officers are being created to oversee that diversity is incorporated as a core institutional value.
The purpose of this study is to look at five similar public universities in Texas to see how the current demographic changes and projections are impacting both strategic plans and policies relating to diversity initiatives. Four research questions will guide this study: (1) What institutional and societal factors contributed to the establishment of the chief diversity office and the position of the chief diversity officer? (2) What is the difference between the role of the Chief Diversity Office and the role of a Multicultural Affairs Student Services Office? (3) How is diversity being made into a core value at an institution of higher education? and (4) How does the chief diversity officer assess that diversity is an institutional value? To gain insight into the research topic a qualitative methodology was used to collect and analyze the data. More specifically, the questionnaire and interview questions used in this study are a replication of David’s (1998) study of The Roles and Functions of Diversity Affairs Centers’ Chief Personnel Officers at Public Universities in Texas. The survey instruments were originally developed in 1992 by Ruth Moyer at Kent State University. The findings will be used to ascertain the extent to which institutions are making diversity a value.



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