When institutions begin to talk about diversity, it may seem a drab sort of affair or something that just needs to be said in order to appeal to the masses. While this can be the case, I would like to think that we talk about this because we appreciate others. As stated in Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community, we affirm the “value of human diversity because it enriches our lives and the University.” There are many benefits to having people of diverse backgrounds in the community, but doing so can bring its own challenges. Some argue that there may not be enough diversity within certain areas, and others push for ideas that may seem more extreme than usual. Whatever the case, it is important to analyze how this affects our lives and studies.
We first have to define what we mean when saying diversity. A simple definition would be a collection of cultures, ideas, people and traditions within a group. From a technical standpoint, introducing people to diverse communities will help when entering the workforce, as it is estimated that half of workers will be people of color. This goes along with the general trend of globalization, with certain companies incorporating this idea experiencing higher customer and employee satisfaction. This in turn leads to higher worker retention and a healthier work environment. The way colleges fail in taking advantage of this phenomenon is that they mainly focus on the recruitment and admittance of diverse peoples. Not following up on this can lead to self-segregation and a student body separating within itself. Encouraging close quarters living arrangements could provide a solution to such a set up.
Organizations such as the Mozaiko Living Learning Community that are tailored toward diverse peoples and thinking could serve as a model for future college development. Being a member of this community, I know the separate language houses engage in activities surrounding culture and encouraging conversations in their respective languages. While the people are grouped into suites based on their language, the languages are largely mixed together on the hallways, and the many events held throughout the year are available to anyone who is interested. Benz Zhang, a freshman general engineering student, is a member of the Mozaiko LLC at Harper Hall, and he had some thoughts pertaining to the influence of diversity among the student body.
“Being in this type of environment has really fostered my communication skills and introduced me to new ways of seeing things,” he said.
There are, of course, certain drawbacks to the process of integration. Not having the right programs to support such a move can make situations awkward for those trying to integrate with the general populace. There may also be resistance to this change, as organizational disorder is often an unwelcome outcome for those in the community. Administration should aid in this process, but it should also evolve along with the student body, as in most U.S. colleges three-quarters of full-time faculty are white. Certain initiatives, such as Stanford’s ethnically themed dorms, seem good at heart, a similar theme to the Mozaiko LLC, but the self-selection into these dorms risks reducing interaction within its diverse community. Seeing how to mitigate and improve on aspects of these concerns is crucial to ensuring cohesive living and learning within our communities.
A somewhat overused concept still holds powerful connections to the way we work and live. Perhaps if we take more strides to incorporate this idea into incoming students, we will find greater progress in interpersonal relations, along with greater work ability. Though it can sometimes be difficult to include everyone in the group, I am sure we will continue to stand out in our efforts and principles.