America should be a country where everyone is treated equally, regardless of race or creed. In 2020, this goal is still distant. Racism still causes widespread inequality within American society. Yet some colleges across the country are proactively working on challenging racism head-on. This article highlights how 30 American colleges aim to make the USA an equal society by supporting minorities, implementing anti-racism practices, and creating ever more inclusive campuses.
Naturally, race should not define someone’s ability to gain an education and a fulfilling career. But there is a racial divide when it comes to educational achievement. There is no one reason for this gap. A range of issues makes it difficult for minorities to gain an education in America. Therefore, colleges are trying to implement a range of solutions to eliminate racism in society and education.
The tragedies of racial injustices taking place in 2020 have highlighted the longstanding divisions in America. These events show why it is so important for racism and inequality to be challenged. But it is also important to remember that progress has been made. Change has happened, and it will happen again. US colleges, as institutions of progress, have an important role to play in this change. Colleges across the country have implemented anti-racist and pro-ethnic awareness initiatives and cultures. The 30 colleges in this article are some of the best.
Any of the colleges below is a fine choice for a prospective student who wants to attend an institution advancing ethnic awareness and fighting racial injustice in the USA. However, it’s also possible that none of the colleges below are right for you. If that’s the case, then this article can still be a vital resource. Every listed college has a detailed summary of what it is doing to become a more ethnically aware institution. These have been included so that you can compare and contrast them with your own college options. If one of your potential college destinations is doing what these colleges are doing, then that’s a strong sign that it’s a college worth attending.
This article has assessed a range of sources that highlight how colleges in America are raising awareness of ethnic issues. These sources are as follows:
Association of American Colleges & Universities, Truth Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Campus Centers: https://www.aacu.org/trht-campus-centers
US Department of Education, Advancing Diversity And Inclusion In Higher Education: https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/advancing-diversity-inclusion.pdf
Center for American Progress, Addressing Racial Trauma and Hate Crimes on College Campuses: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2019/08/09/473299/addressing-racial-trauma-hate-crimes-college-campuses/
NPR, Why Colleges Already Face Race Related Challenges In Serving Future Students: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/05/24/467199006/why-colleges-already-face-race-related-challenges-in-serving-future-students
Insight into Diversity, Diversity Champions: https://www.insightintodiversity.com/diversity-champions/
After identifying the colleges from these sources, we conducted further research to discover what other efforts they are taking to raise ethnic awareness and challenge racism. This research led to our final ranking.
The ranking criteria for the below entries is as follows: Number of sources featuring the college, evidence of commitment to ethnic awareness, evidence of expanding ethnic awareness/anti-racism efforts in the future and evidence of innovative awareness methods.
Our final ranking, from 30 to one, is below:
30. Agnes Scott College
In 2020, Agnes Scott College’s Center for Global Diversity and Inclusion called for its community to lead the fight against racism. To help people participate in anti-racism efforts, the college listed a range of opportunities that take place on and off-campus, such as training programs, petitions for hate crime laws, and meetings of African American faculty and staff. Agnes Scott College has also been selected by the Association of American Colleges & Universities as one of the first 25 colleges in America to host a Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Center on its campus.
29. Clemson University
Clemson, South Carolina
The diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives at Clemson University benefit both the college community and society. An example of this includes The Men of Color Summit, which aims to close the achievement gap for African American and Hispanic men by bringing together 2,000 high school and college students, business professionals, educators, government officials, and community leaders. And since 2017, Clemson University’s diversity efforts have been aided by The Council for Diversity and Inclusion, formed by representatives of the college’s leadership, college community members, and wider community members. The council meets once a month to work on promoting a more inclusive environment. Insight into Diversity names the college a diversity champion.
28. University of North Florida
The Department of Diversity Initiatives at the University of North Florida is aptly named. The programs and services that it runs include “Let’s Talk About It…” which gets community members to discuss systemic issues and national incidents that impact the college community; and Multicultural Student Welcome, which provides receptions at the start of semesters that build a sense of community for underrepresented students, faculty, and staff. In 2020, the college took a large step to increase equality on its campus. The college president announced that anti-racism education would become mandatory for all incoming students. The University of North Florida is also one of Insight into Diversity’s diversity champions.
27. Adelphi University
Garden City, New York
The current diversity initiatives at Adelphi University are governed by the principle of “The Three C’s.” “The Three C’s” are:
The college is becoming more ethnically aware in these areas by infusing its curriculum with diverse people’s perspectives and contributions, recruiting/retaining a composition of diverse faculty and students, and creating dialogues between diverse groups to ensure a welcoming campus climate for all. Thanks to its proactive diversity initiatives, Adelphi University was selected by the Association of American Colleges & Universities to host one of its Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Centers.
26. Andrews University
Berrien Springs, Michigan
In 2017, Andrews University committed to a range of steps that would improve its already leading diversity efforts. These steps included hiring a full-time administrator of diversity, developing a new cultural diversity training program that would be required for all college community members, hiring more diverse faculty/staff, strengthening the grievance process for injustice reports, and more. Because of this proactive ethnic awareness approach, Andrews University became a host campus for one of the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ Truth Racial Healing & Transformation Centers.
25. Southwestern University
Southwestern University’s commitment to diversity is highlighted in the US Department of Education’s report on advancing equality in higher education. One of the most proactive ways that the college promotes ethnic awareness is through its Diversity Enrichment Committee. This committee comprises faculty, staff, and students and manages a fund to promote diversity in campus organizations, departments, and student groups. In 2020, almost 900 members of Southwestern University’s community signed a statement on racial justice. This statement encouraged people from all parts of the college to engage with the college’s leadership to hold the college accountable for its actions on equality, meaning that the college community committed to advancing its ethnic awareness and anti-racism efforts with one another.
24. The University at Albany, State University of New York
Albany, New York
US Department of Education praises The University of Albany, State University of New York, for its efforts to increase diversity and inclusion. In particular, the source highlights the college’s Diversity Transformation Fund, which provides up to $4,000 for activities and initiatives that promote inclusiveness. However, the college also runs a range of other programs and initiatives that raise awareness of ethnic issues. For example, Conversations for Change take place across campus to engage students on diversity issues. The University of Albany, State University of New York’s current diversity and inclusion plan addresses ethnic issues in various ways. It aims to recruit faculty, staff, and graduate students who are more diverse, encourage constructive dialogues on individual differences, and incorporate diversity into curricular and co-curricular activities.
23. Austin Community College
Over the last decade, Austin Community College has increased its Hispanic student population from 25% to 38% of its overall enrollment. Impressively, this figure reflects the overall Hispanic population of Austin, which is 34.5%. And the college’s leadership was keen to help this new population through their years of study, creating the Achieving the Dream Project, which analyzed data to identify equity gaps among its students and then implemented a range of support services to address them. And this programming has been successful. For instance, “For male Latino students who participate in coaching, persistence rates are 22 percentage points higher.” Thanks to improvements like this, the Association of American Colleges & Universities selected Austin Community College as a host campus for one of its Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Centers.
22. California State University, Fullerton
Early in 2020, California State University decided to launch a major anti-racism/anti-bias program. Sadly, this move came after a racist incident at a fraternity. However, the college’s leadership has had a strong response to this incident. In addition to creating the program, it also banned the fraternity from being a student organization or functioning on campus and committed to hiring more African American faculty and staff members. These moves build upon a range of diversity programs that the college has been working toward over the last decade. In 2014, California State University, Fullerton founded the Diversity Initiatives Resource Centers to “create learning environments and opportunities that support the University mission by preparing students to become socially-conscious leaders.” U.S. Department of Education has praised this center.
21. The University of Alabama at Birmingham
While The University of Alabama at Birmingham is already an Insight into Diversity diversity champion, the college is never content with its efforts. Its current strategic diversity plan is working to increase the retention of underrepresented groups, improve the inclusive campus environment, and expand its diversity education. The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’s Year in Review 2019 document shows that the college is achieving these goals in many ways. For instance, in 2019 alone, the college formed over a dozen community partnerships and two dozen strategic partnerships and trained 1,500 people in its diversity education curriculum.
20. The University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa
Center for American Progress notes that The University of Iowa is proactively addressing racial trauma on its campus. The college has a range of committees, coalitions, task forces, and teams that are dedicated to fighting racism and raising awareness of ethnic issues. Examples include:
- Anti-violence Coalition
- Campus Inclusion Team
- Charter Committee on Diversity
- Womxn of Colour Network
The University of Iowa’s Excellence Through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department’s current action plan has four goals. The first is to create and sustain an inclusive, equitable campus environment. The second is to recruit, retain, and advance its diverse community. The third is to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into the college’s core mission. And the fourth is to enhance its campus-wide equality efforts.
19. Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester, New York
Of the almost 19,000 students enrolled at Rochester Institute of Technology, 3,600 are African American, Latinx, and/or Native American. This high percentage of minority students is significant, as the college is one of America’s largest producers of STEM graduates among private colleges in America. Including minority students is one of the guiding principles of the college’s current strategic plan. And in 2020, Rochester Institute of Technology committed to accelerating its equality efforts. The college’s Vice President and Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Keith Jenkins, has been working with a range of college communities to generate a list of 100 ideas for the college to do more to fight racism and promote social justice.
18. University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
In late 2015, the University of Michigan’s president began expanding the college’s commitment to diversity. This resulted in the college developing the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, appointing a Chief Diversity Officer and creating a strategic plan for diversity. By 2019, these measures had improved the college campus in several ways. For instance, 100% of the college’s executive officers and deans had participated in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’s skill-building activities, and 90% of incoming first-year students received unconscious-bias training. U.S. Department of Education praises the University of Michigan’s diversity efforts.
17. Medical University of South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
Minority students at the Medical University of South Carolina are assisted before they even begin their studies. These students and their families have the opportunity to enter a transition forum before the beginning of their first year that lets them meet peer mentors, meet key college personnel, and more. This is just one aspect of the college’s two-decade-long diversity plan. In 2002, the Medical University of South Carolina launched a plan to increase its faculty members and students’ diversity. That plan has been a success, with its underrepresented medicine faculty members increasing by 100% and the underrepresented student population increasing by 64% over the last 18 years. This increase in minority representation is just one reason why the college has been named one of Insight into Diversity’s diversity champions.
16. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
The ethnic awareness initiatives at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University became much more proactive in 2016 when the college’s Office for Inclusion and Diversity worked with many different departments to craft their own diversity strategic plans. This resulted in each of the university’s colleges and most of its academic and administrative units setting up diversity committees. Overall, the college aims for 25% of its incoming freshmen and transfer students to be underrepresented minorities by 2022. It also aims to have 15% of its faculty made up of underrepresented minorities by 2024. Insight into Diversity also names the college a diversity champion.
15. Southern Methodist University
The leadership at Southern Methodist University has placed a great emphasis on getting its students and other community members to consider others’ perspectives. For students, this begins during their initial orientation, where the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs leads a presentation and group sessions on valuing every campus community member. The college also has The Cultural Intelligence Initiative@SMU, which ensures “that every member of the Southern Methodist University community is equipped with the skills and knowledge to manage and communicate effectively in complex cultural contexts.” Additionally, the college’s 2006-2015 strategic plan included a commitment to diversifying its student applicants and minority enrollments, which was a success. The college’s current strategic plan aims to further expand this diversity further, with an increase in diverse faculty is also becoming a priority. U.S. Department of Education praises Southern Methodist University’s ethnic awareness initiatives.
14. Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas
The major driver of ethnic awareness on the Texas A&M University campus is the Race and Ethnic Studies Institute. This institute has been a part of the college for almost 20 years. Its mission, “of encouraging research in the field of racial and ethnic studies,” goes much further than college grounds, however. It is extending its work and research goals to other colleges. Already, it is sharing this work with other Texas higher education institutions. In 2020, Texas A&M University also appointed a 45 person commission of the college’s community members to evaluate its diversity, equity, and inclusion. At the end of October, this commission will provide a report to the college’s board of regents and president, which will improve the college’s campus climate in the future. Texas A&M University is also one of Insight into Diversity’s diversity champions.
13. University of Pennsylvania
NPR notes that the University of Pennsylvania aims to increase minority enrollment on its campus by partnering with organizations to spread to low-income communities knowledge of the support the college offers to students who need financial aid. And once students are admitted to the college, they are supported by the First-Generation Low-Income Program, which provides emergency funding, career/internship assistance, academic support, and more. In addition to minority student enrollment, the University of Pennsylvania has also increased its number of underrepresented minority faculty members over the last decade. In fact, from 2011 to 2018, the college’s standing faculty members who were minorities increased from 20% to 25%.
12. University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
In 2020, the University of South Carolina’s president stated that he was currently assembling a team to create a diversity module that will be mandatory for all students. Even before this announcement, all college faculty, staff, and students were required to participate in anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training. The college has been actively working to address ethnic issues on and off-campus for many years. These efforts have resulted in a more diverse campus. Over the last decade, the African American student enrollment has increased by 10.6%, Hispanic student enrollment has increased by 63%, and mixed-race enrollment has increased by 36.5%. Insight into Diversity names the college as a diversity champion.
11. Oklahoma State University
Thanks to its ethnic awareness efforts, Oklahoma State University has achieved a 99% increase in the number of minority students earning a bachelor’s degree in the last decade. The college has been taking diversity and inclusion seriously for a long time. In fact, it has been mandatory for all undergraduate students to enroll in a diversity course since the year 2008. The college also offers over 100 different diversity courses. Insight into Diversity has named Oklahoma State University a diversity champion.
10. Virginia Commonwealth University
In 2013, Virginia Commonwealth University created the Division for Inclusive Excellence. This department aims to “create and sustain an equitable and inclusive environment” to make the college a better place for all. The activities of this division have proved to be successful. By 2018, it had increased the college’s graduation rates, diversity, and academic standards. In late 2019, the college’s Individual, Institutional, and Systemic Bias Task Force provided a wide range of recommended improvements for the college’s leadership to implement. These recommendations have resulted in the college revising its discrimination policy, a series of diversity and inclusion courses, and much more. Virginia Commonwealth University is also an Insight into Diversity diversity champion.
9. Georgia State University
Thanks to its nationally recognized student success initiatives, Georgia State University has “eliminated achievement gaps based on race, ethnicity, or income.” Thanks to this, the college often ranks first in not-for-profit colleges in granting bachelor’s degrees to African Americans. There is no shortage of diversity activities on offer at Georgia State University. In fact, there are currently more than 100 programs and initiatives listed on the college’s diversity database. U.S. Department of Education is impressed with Georgia State University’s rapid increase in African American and Hispanic student enrollment/graduation and its increase in nonwhite faculty in the 21st century.
8. University of Cincinnati
Association of American Colleges & Universities has selected the University of Cincinnati as a host college for its Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Centers. Insight into Diversity also names the college a diversity champion. One of the main forces for ethnic awareness on the University of Cincinnati campus is The Office of Ethnic Programs and Services. This office supports students of color, builds bridges between the university and the community, addresses the campus community’s cultural needs, and more. The college also runs the Racial Awareness Program, which takes place over nine months every year and allows students “to engage in meaningful intergroup dialogue on issues of social justice – particularly race.”
7. University of Maryland, College Park
College Park, Maryland
U.S. Department of Education praises the college’s Mission and Goals Statement to make the college a more diverse place. Center for American Progress highlights the University of Maryland, College Park, in its article about addressing racial trauma and hate crimes on college campuses for its effective drop-in hour for students of color. The college runs a range of other diversity and inclusion efforts. For instance, it has a series of dialogue events aimed “to help advance discussions of identity, difference, and commonality.” In 2020, the University of Maryland announced a new anti-racism action plan. This plan is currently being formed through conversations with the college’s communities and the leadership reviewing its curriculum.
6. Florida State University
In NPR’s article on colleges overcoming race-related challenges, Florida State University’s approach to data-driven racial accommodations is praised. For instance, the source notes that the college improved the Hispanic retention and graduation rate by contracting a bus company to help these students reach their families during term time Insight into Diversity also names the college a diversity champion. Additionally, one of Florida State University’s current strategic plan goals is to redefine what inclusion on college campuses can mean. It is doing this by “valuing, celebrating and leveraging the differences and similarities within our community,” to create an inventive and compassionate environment for equality.
5. University of Kentucky
The bias services on offer at the University of Kentucky are featured in the Center for American Progress as an example of what colleges should be striving for in advancing equality. The department, named Bias Incident Support Services (BISS,) provides confidential support, resources, aid in reporting incidents, advocacy for needed accommodations, campus partner consultations, and more. The college is also recognized as a diversity champion by Insight into Diversity. When it comes to ethnic awareness in course content, the University of Kentucky has the Center for the Enhancement of Learning & Teaching (CELT.) This department works with professors and other educators at the college to make course content more inclusive. It is also working to make the college more equal in less direct ways, such as promoting the use of freely licensed materials for research instead of expensive textbooks that students from lower-income backgrounds may struggle to afford.
4. Indiana University Bloomington
U.S. Department of Education praises the way that Indiana University Bloomington is asking students how it can improve its campus diversity. Insight into Diversity also names the college a diversity champion. In 2020, Indiana University Bloomington has been more proactive than ever in its anti-racist and equality initiatives. For instance, it established a $1 million pandemic health disparities fund to help its African American and Hispanic students get the healthcare they need during the coronavirus crisis. It also appointed the college’s Provost Professor Lemuel W. Watson to spearhead a whole new range of anti-racist activities.
3. Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island
US Department of Education highlights Brown University as a positive example of a college that is creating an inclusive campus climate. In particular, the source notes that the college actively encourages students to build meaningful relationships across different groups and provides a range of socio-emotional resources for these groups. Association of American Colleges & Universities has also selected the college’s campus to host a Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center. In 2015, Brown University’s anti-racism efforts increased significantly when the college’s leadership invested $100 million to address racism on campus and in society. In 2020, the college’s leadership released new steps that were being taken to address anti-black racism, such as offering Juneteenth as a holiday for its employees, creating a task force, and establishing a seed fund to, “support research and education aimed at addressing anti-Black racism and police violence.”
2. Columbia University
New York City, New York
Two methodology sources state that Columbia University is advancing diversity. US Department of Education praises the college’s $85 million investment for underrepresented faculty recruitment and retention. Insight into Diversity names the college a diversity champion. In 2020, Columbia University’s president announced a range of new measures to fight racism and promote equality. These include accelerating the underrepresented faculty retention program and increasing its schools’ and institutes’ efforts to address anti-black racism. In the past, Columbia University has been proactive in fighting for the rights of minorities. It was home to the first African American advocacy group on a multi-racial campus in America.
1. The University of Texas at Austin
The US Department of Education praises the faculty-based diversity initiatives at The University of Texas at Austin. Additionally, the online anonymous system for incident reporting at the college has been highlighted by the Center for American Progress as an effective tool for addressing structural barriers to equality. The team that manages these reports (which can also be submitted via phone or in-person), the Campus Climate Response Team (CCRT), has been in existence since 2012 and has the goal of creating “a more inclusive, welcoming campus community.” In 2020, The University of Texas at Austin’s interim president announced that the college was launching and expanding a range of other equality programs. One example is the $160 million Texas Advance Commitment, which provides funding for students from middle and low-income families.