In the last few decades, there’s been a dramatic shift in the makeup of campus populations in terms of race, gender, gender identification, religion and other factors. Diversity on college campuses enriches the experience in various ways. For many students, the non-homogenous composition of the university population becomes their introduction to the world as it is a departure from their sheltered backgrounds. For others who are already familiar with diverse communities, the multi-ethnic multicultural campus environment is an affirmation of their experience. Navigating the cross-cultural fabric of campus life is part of the overall learning experience for everyone.
1. Diversity intensifies self-awareness
Students arrive on college campuses with their personalities and perspectives already fully formed but still malleable. This sense of self-knowledge is sharpened with exposure and close contact with others whose life experiences are on the opposite spectrum. Engaging with others whose opinions, customs and personal lifestyles differ sharply from your own increases your self-insight. In turn, this type of exposure will help you make informed decisions about your career direction.
2. Diversity contributes to expanding the knowledge base and promotes creative thinking.
The course curriculum is not the only source of knowledge in college. Studies have shown that the learning environment becomes more robust with the addition of new material in the form of fresh viewpoints. Interacting with a diverse group of people provides many opportunities to learn from others who bring a different perspective colored by a different life experience. This type of exposure increases your capacity for exploring ideas and solutions based on different perspectives or vantage points. As a result, your single-focus perspective is transformed into multi-focus, and you become capable of viewing issues and problems from different angles. This engenders creativity and enhances your problem-solving abilities.
3. The real world is diverse, and a diverse college experience encourages students to think of their careers based on a global perspective.
No matter what career track you choose to pursue, expect that you will be involved in diverse circles. Employers, co-workers, clients and customers will come from different backgrounds no matter the industry or professional sector. Early exposure to a diverse environment lays the foundation for a global perspective and builds the social abilities needed to interact productively with individuals of various nationalities and backgrounds. This experience will enhance your career prospects because you are prepared to face opportunities you may not otherwise consider. The workforce in the U.S. is increasingly diverse and expected to become more so estimated at 55 percent of the working age population by 2050, which is a huge increase from current estimates of 34 percent.
4. Diversity is a win-win situation when it comes to social development.
Engaging with diverse groups of individuals whether they are students, faculty or other capacity expands your circle of contacts, enriching it with people of different experiences who have their own circle of contacts. You learn from them, and they learn from you as a result of the interaction. Whether you end up liking or disliking anyone, you will still sharpen your socialization skills and your knowledge of issues outside of your comfort zone. These are the skills and inputs that will help you navigate workplace relationships later on.
5. Collaboration in diverse settings produces better results.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that ideas generated by diverse teams were of better quality in terms of feasibility and effectiveness. Critical analysis and recommended solutions were more nuanced coming from diverse teams. With input from individuals of diverse backgrounds, perspectives and alternatives that were not previously raised were considered although these perspectives did not always prevail or were not always correct.
Campus life is an eye-opener for many students. For many, it is the first taste of freedom and an unfiltered view of the real world. Diversity on college campuses enriches the experience, strengthens innate creativity and lays the groundwork for global engagement as students transition to their chosen careers.