Stevenson University is a diverse institution, which we believe adds strength and character to our educational experience.
Most experts on the topic of diversity agree that inclusion is one of the greatest challenges for colleges and universities to achieve. For example, a curriculum needs to reflect a variety of rich academic programs available for diverse audiences. By offering these courses, we help the campus more fully understand human differences and similarities through the lens of such topics as culture, race, religion, gender, language, and socioeconomic factors, thus spawning healthy conversations and dialogues about them. Given our core curriculum requirements, it is sometimes difficult to find room for additional courses about these subjects—yet we understand that it is necessary to do so.
During the past year we have had an opportunity to understand even more fully the importance of diversity to members of our campus community. Recently, we hosted a town hall meeting in order to assess the state of diversity and inclusion at Stevenson. Nearly 200 students attended, and I helped to facilitate an open discussion among the students as well as faculty and staff.
Many perspectives were shared during the town hall, and they included a variety of concerns from security and student activities to curriculum and inclusion. Although all of these issues are important, one that seemed to dominate the discussion was some students reporting that they love being at Stevenson but don’t always feel part of the community. Also, a critical reminder that we took away from the meeting is that we are all different in one way or another. For example, my father immigrated from Ireland, and I remember hearing and feeling the inclusion issues that were part of his life experience in America. Unfortunately, our nation has a history of excluding people based on race, gender, religion, and more, which is why we need to provide opportunities to share our own personal experiences, learn from each other, and learn about other cultures in order to be more inclusive. Here at Stevenson, we share a common consciousness in that we all have similarities and differences, a fact that we embrace as we critique our curriculum and continue to move forward on diversity initiatives.
The town hall meeting offered many insights and following this productive meeting, we decided to engage a national expert on diversity who spent three days on campus visiting with students, faculty, and staff. As a result, Stevenson has decided to hire an Associate Vice President for Diversity, Inclusion, and Compliance; promote an existing position to an Assistant Vice President for Multicultural Affairs; and develop a comprehensive plan to foster diversity and inclusion throughout our community. Toward that end, we are creating a diversity and inclusion committee that will work with our new AVPs. The committee will be charged with creating a plan for diversity initiatives that we will support by bringing in speakers, adding to the curriculum, discussing diversity and inclusion, and helping each member of the campus community to become more conscious of their own uniqueness while developing a deeper understanding of others.
In addition to providing a high-quality education, Stevenson also must support its values through inclusion. We become a stronger and more effective university by including the many voices in our community. Through conscious inclusion efforts we can become the kind of institution that we want to be while preparing our students to become contributors in a world that is increasingly complex, diverse, and interconnected.
We are very optimistic about our ability to create a national model of significance in the area of diversity and inclusion that will not only benefit Stevenson but all of higher education. We look forward to the challenge and to reporting on these issues in the future.
Kevin J. Manning, Ph.D.