Survey Aims to Help Colleges Make Diversity Work On Campus

Posted By Eliana Osborn on July 15, 2016 at 7:17 am
Survey Aims to Help Colleges Make Diversity Work On Campus

Enrolling students from a variety of ethnic groups, economic backgrounds, religions and more is one thing. Creating a campus where all students feel welcome and primed for success is another entirely. Colleges and universities have increased the diversity of their student bodies, but problems continue with campus climate. That impacts grade point averages, graduation rates and even mental health.

Culturally Engaging Campus Environments is a project out of Indiana State University to help schools make themselves more welcoming to all students. CECE has developed a survey for schools to use during the next academic year. The survey touches on nine areas that, according to research, indicate a campus where students feel engaged.  Five factors concern cultural relevance and the final four involve cultural responsiveness.

Diversity on campus

CECE Indicators:

  • Cultural Familiarity
  • Culturally Relevant Knowledge
  • Cultural Community Service
  • Meaningful Cross-Cultural Engagement
  • Cultural Validation
  • Collectivist Cultural Orientations
  • Humanized Educational Environments
  • Proactive Philosophies
  • Holistic Support

The CECE model was first presented to the annual meeting of NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, in 2014 by Dr. Sam Museus of the University of Denver. The goal is to “strategically improve retention and matriculation rates” for minority students. More than 20 years of research led to the model’s development and validity testing. These are the aspects of college life that positively correlate to student success.

The 2016 survey includes 30 questions for students. When data is collected in 2017, participating schools will be able to compare their results from campus diversity efforts with others. Most valuable will be looking at institutions with similar makeups and seeing which ones have best created a diverse community.

Surveys suggest that students who are in a racial or economic minority perceive schools differently than dominant culture students do. It can be hard for administrators and advisors to see through different eyes, so the survey’s direct responses will provide important perspective on campus diversity.

Museus edited the 2012 book Creating Campus Cultures: Fostering Success among Racially Diverse Student Populations. The publication was motivated by the essential problem higher education is facing. “Many colleges and universities have not engaged in the critical self-examination of their campuses necessary for effectively serving racially diverse student populations.” Aiming for diversity, even using it as part of enrollment decisions, is not enough to create a diverse campus. Without an honest, perhaps painful, look at schools, true diversity cannot be achieved.

The CECE model and corresponding survey will give the clearest, most comprehensive perspective yet on how colleges actually function in real life when it comes to campus diversity. The strategies employed by high scoring schools will surely illuminate policy as others try to replicate their successes.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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