Multiculturalism and Diversity on the College Campus Resources and Information on Fostering and Maintaining an Inclusive Environment


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Dr. Chester Goad

Dr. Chester Goad is a university administrator and graduate instructor, former K-12 principal and teacher, former US congressional staffer, author and blogger. He is coauthor of Tennessee's Dyslexia Is Real law and has presented on disability and leadership-related topics everywhere from Appalachia to Africa. He sits on the editorial review board of the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability and on the board of directors for the Association on Higher Education and Disability. A leader in education, nonprofit advocacy, parenting issues, access and policy, Goad has been quoted in major media outlets such as CNBC, Yahoo, the Washington Post and Forbes Leadership. He is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post, The Good Men Project and Edutopia. You can learn more about Goad and his Amazon best-seller at or

Multicultural Guides and Resources

Recognizing the need for comprehensive information on how students of varied cultural and ethnic backgrounds are being served and empowered across college campuses, we created a series of guides designed to highlight the many educational, financial and social opportunities available to today’s postsecondary students.

Finding an Inclusive and Diverse College

By 2050, ethnic and racial minorities are expected to comprise 50 percent of the American population, meaning there will no longer be a single majority ethnicity. Between 1976 and 2012, this shift was underway on college campuses, where representation of minority students grew noticeably across all ethnicities, while the percentage of white college students decreased from 84 percent to 60 percent. As the United States lives up to its reputation as a melting pot, college campuses are working to ensure all student populations are represented and served equally, regardless of their cultural or ethnic heritage.

College is a time when students expand their worldviews, augment critical thinking skills and create relationships with students from all backgrounds and walks of life. Developing an understanding for and appreciation of diversity plays a massive role in the lives of students, not only while they are in college but also throughout the rest of their lives. A recent Forbes survey of employers found that 65 percent believed diversity was crucial to business success, while 75 percent planned to harness diversity initiatives to grow their businesses. Long before pressing the “accept” button on the admissions page, students should learn about the importance their shortlisted schools place on fostering diversity and multiculturalism on campus and beyond.

Determining a School’s Diversity

Diversity can refer to respect for varied points of view; openness to new ideas, cultures, religions, and traditions; or the lack of homogeneity. Finding a truly diverse campus with an open climate can be a significant component of the postsecondary experience. Because college is a time of personal and intellectual engagement, diverse campuses also challenge students to understand why they hold certain assumptions or beliefs and help them develop frameworks for seeing the world.

Just as higher education has offered women studies, gender studies, African-American history or Native American cultural courses, they're beginning to see the value of disability relative to all those issues, and also as additional standalone topics such as disability studies, disability history, disability culture, the history of access, disability representations in media and much more. The culture and history of disability and all the other issues that surround the topic only strengthen the case of disability as diversity.

Dr. Chester Goad

It can seem daunting for prospective students to truly get a feel for a school’s diversity without first attending the school. Our tips below will help you ascertain if a college values multiculturalism, whether that means looking for resources, getting to know the faculty mindset or talking with current students about their experiences.

  • Attend a few classes

    Get to know the student makeup of a typical course and listen closely to how professors lecture. Are they incorporating examples from a wide variety of sources? Does the syllabus reflect a genuine effort to make all students feel involved and represented?

  • Speak to multicultural administrators

    Set up a meeting with staff at an international student office or center for diversity and ask about campus initiatives to embrace an inclusive environment. Are there substantial resources to properly serve a diverse student body?

  • Check out student groups

    In addition to official campus offices, try to find out about student-led initiatives. Student leaders from, for example, an LGBTQ equality forum or nonpartisan political group, will likely be attuned to campus happenings. What are their impressions of their classmates’ attitudes toward diversity on campus? Do they feel that college administrators are doing their part to bring about change?

  • Do your research

    Most colleges post statistics about the student body of previous academic years, and often this data will include details about the ethnic makeup of each class. University of Virginia is just one example of a school providing metrics on the ethnic makeup of their student body. Is the school attracting (and retaining) students from a variety of backgrounds?

  • Stay with a student

    Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to a few options, try to schedule an overnight visit to get a feel for everyday life. By working with the office of diversity, you may be able to arrange to stay with a minority or special interest student. Having been on campus for a few semesters, what are their overall feelings about the school’s approach to diversity?

  • Sift through scholarships

    6.Schools that are serious about encouraging a spirit of multiculturalism often offer scholarships specific to minority or historically underrepresented groups. UNC Chapel Hill is a great example of a school providing scholarship resources for students of diverse backgrounds. Do the schools you’re considering celebrate and encourage diversity with funds for LGBTQ, international or other special student populations?

  • Look for innovation

    Aside from the diversity activities that have become more commonplace in recent years, look for signs that the school is thinking outside the box when it comes to engaging students of diverse backgrounds. Diversity Abroad is an exciting program popping up on college campuses, which seeks to engage minority and underrepresented students in opportunities to study and work abroad. Can you see signs of innovation in the programs you’re considering?

  • Research levels of engagement

    Students with interests in multicultural and diversity-related topics know what it takes to get and keep them engaged on their campus. Opportunities like the National Student Leadership Diversity Convention bring student change agents together to learn how to empower all students and create cultural bridges amongst student populations. Do the schools you’re considering take part in such opportunities?

Getting Involved on Your Campus

A report by Association of Leadership Educators showed that over 75 percent of college students surveyed belonged to student organizations, programs or clubs on their campus. The findings illuminate their motives for involvement:

agreed strongly that belonging to a student organization was important to them

agreed that student organizations helped them build leadership skills

agreed that student organizations helped them build communication skills

agreed that they joined a student organization because they support the mission of the group.

Some of the ways students can promote diversity on their campuses include:

International student associations

These groups bring together students from across the globe, hosting social events and providing international students with resources and helpful tips on “Americanisms” they may need to navigate. Aside from providing a comforting space for students far away from their families, these groups also host cultural events to share different parts of the world with the entire campus community.

Departments of LGBTQ interests

More and more colleges are creating offices or departments devoted to the needs and interests of LGBTQ students. Many host Pride walks, movie nights and discussion forums in addition to providing services such as counseling, hormone treatments and emergency services. The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals offers a map of all colleges in the nation with at least one paid professional staff member devoted to LGBTQ interests.

Coexist groups

With a mission of promoting dialogue and understanding across multiple religious sects, Coexist groups bring together students of varied religious and cultural backgrounds to engage in thoughtful discussions. They may bring in speakers from different religions, host social events or petition college administration to be more inclusive in their teaching of world religions.

Socio-economic diversity organizations

U/FUSED is a student organization operating on college campuses across the nation with a mission to improve socio-economic diversity in higher education. Members learn how to work with one another and with their school’s administration to increase diversity and develop welcoming campus environments for students of all social and economic backgrounds.

Female-oriented interest groups

Numerous student groups focused on the interests of women exist. Some of these may be concentrated on specific areas, such as women in STEM degrees, female law students or women in medicine. A number of schools have Feminists United groups, which bring together men and women to advocate for equality, raise awareness about challenges women encounter, and host speakers to address issues facing women.

Minority groups

Groups providing social events and advocacy efforts for minority students abound on the best college campuses, with organizations for Hispanic, African-American, Asian, Pacific Islander and American Indian students.

Getting involved in college programs or organizations working to enhance multiculturalism on campus can be a significant part of a student’s college experience. In addition to planning socials and campus initiatives, many of the groups noted above have the ears of senior faculty and administrators, and use this platform to enact change. Student Voice is just one example of a student-run organization making an impact. According to research, involvement in campus organizations not only promotes change and greater understanding of issues facing the student body, but also increases active members’ skills in leadership, communication, critical thinking and empathy.

Community Resources: Getting Involved in Your College Town

In addition to student organizations, there are many off-campus opportunities to encourage diverse and inclusive communities. The Corporation for National and Community Service found that nearly one-third of all college students volunteered their time, evidence that the students of today want to be engaged in their surroundings. Many universities have service learning and volunteerism offices with ties to local nonprofits and service agencies. These are a great place to start, as university staff can put students in touch with organizations matched to their interests. Other options include national volunteer databases, such as Volunteer Match, Catchafire and All for Good.

Diversity and Multicultural Resources for Students

In 2014, the University of California system, which is made up of nine colleges, announced that it had admitted more Latino students than white students for the upcoming school year. With the dramatic increase in minority students attending higher education, colleges are learning how to best serve students of diverse backgrounds. Keep reading to learn how institutions are serving specific student populations.

Multiple national organizations that serve the needs and interests of American Indian students exist on college campuses today, and Arizona State University has an entire office devoted to campus-level initiatives for American Indians. For institutions currently without these groups, students can work with their college leaders to introduce them on campus. Some of the best known include:

Though there aren’t many national organizations furthering the interests of Eastern European students, numerous colleges throughout America have active student unions and organizations offering a roster of services and events to help students feel at home. If a university doesn’t have a group devoted to Eastern European students, consider working with the Russian or Slavic language faculty to start one. Great examples of colleges serving these populations well include:

To learn more about the numerous opportunities and services available to Hispanic and Latino students, check out our guide on College Resources for Hispanic Students.

These student populations are just as diverse as the campus programs and clubs available to them across the nation. Organizations may help Indian students celebrate Diwali, host special programming for the Chinese New Year or work with Filipino students to get settled into their dorm rooms. While some are devoted to these ethnicities as a whole, others cater to specific interests and areas of study within the groups. Great examples include:

Universities in every corner of the United States now have a spectrum of services, scholarships and groups dedicated to serving and empowering LGBTQ students and their allies. You can learn more about these in our LGBT Friendly Colleges and Resources guide.

In many cases, students with disabilities may not even be aware of all the organizations dedicated to serving their interests and working to make their college experience exceptional. Such organizations provide a range of resources, including scholarships, accommodations, student groups and inspirational speakers. More information is available in our College Resources for Students with Disabilities guide.

In the past, disability had often been overlooked as a diversity issue, but today more universities are incorporating disability into their campus awareness initiatives, programming and development. The disability culture is rich and diverse, so campuses who are actively spotlighting and recognizing disability as a diversity issue are bringing about important conversations and helping to reframe disability.

Dr. Chester Goad

Female college students have their choice of many groups and programs at higher education institutions. Groups may bring in inspiring speakers, invite members to attend national conferences, host rallies or petition administrators to enact equality measures. With other services ranging from female dormitories to intramural sport teams, there’s a great chance of finding an option fitted to individual needs and interests. If not, take a look at some of the most innovative programs on these college campuses to get ideas for one you may want to start:

Scholarships and Financial Aid Resources

In the 2015-2016 academic year, four-year degrees topped out at $36,556 and $124,924 for public and private educations, respectively. Finding funding is a top priority for students and their families across America, yet knowing where to look can be exasperating. A report by showed that minority students receive 48.5 percent of all grant funding, which is made up of federal, state, institutional and private money. The money is out there — students just need to know where to look. The guides below help minority students and other special interest groups learn about their funding options:

Diversity Resources for College Faculty

Professors play a significant role in not only shaping a student’s worldview, but also ensuring every student in their class feels supported and represented. Regardless of their discipline, every professor has a duty to create inclusive classrooms and foster constructive dialogue. Faculty should also be intentional about using materials that respect and celebrate individuals from all walks of life. The resource list below is designed to help faculty members think about how they can empower students and help them become culturally sensitive.

  • A Diversity Action Plan

    Brown University has long been recognized for its efforts to promote diversity across all facets of university life. This action plan is an inspirational read for any faculty members or administrators looking for best practices on expanding diversity initiatives.

  • Creating Inclusive College Classrooms

    The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching provides tips on how to create a classroom where every student feels valued.

  • Diverse Faculty Creates Diverse World

    University Business shared this research in an effort to ensure university administrators are reflecting the value they place on diversity by hiring a diverse faculty.

  • Diversity Awareness Committee

    Wondering how you can enact more change on your college campus? Consider starting a faculty and student diversity awareness committee like the one at Ithaca College.

  • Diversity Awareness Training

    Case Western Reserve University provides a great example of a university educating the entire school community on the importance of diversity. Learn about and be inspired by the series of workshops, training seminars and consultation services offered by the CWRU Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity.

  • Diversity Holidays

    Do you want to incorporate more discussions around diversity and multiculturalism into your syllabus? Diversity Best Practice has a comprehensive calendar of ethnic and religious holidays.

  • How to Empower Students to Create Change

    Edudemic offers insight into how college students are changing the world in the midst of completing their degrees and provides concrete advice on ways faculty can further inspire them.

  • National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity

    NCFDD serves faculty by both providing myriad training opportunities and working on behalf of minority college faculty.

  • Social Entrepreneurship: 7 Ways to Empower Student Changemakers

    This report by Edutopia gives faculty and staff valuable insights on how to help their students make a difference, both on their campuses and in their communities.

  • Writing an Inclusive Syllabus

    California State University Chico has published a variety of syllabi that are inclusive and sensitive to all student populations.

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