Diversity plan key for semester

Christina Stavale

The plan’s main focus is for the classroom

Diversity at Kent State is a focus now more than ever.

Last year, the university released a new diversity plan to guide its efforts through 2010. With the new semester underway, the main focus is in creating diversity in the classroom.

“The diversity plan is the overall university agenda to increase the diversity of students, faculty and staff,” said Steve Michael, vice provost for diversity.

While the plan is in part affirmative action, the diversity plan in its entirety covers a broader spectrum, including community outreach and improving retention.

During this year – the first full year the plan is in effect – Michael said the university will focus on hiring faculty. By next year, he expects to see an increase in minority faculty on campus.

Sociology lecturer Ivanka Sabolich, who is from Croatia, said growing up in a different culture allows her to bring a different kind of experience to class.

“I can bring the experience to different cultures and different economic systems,” she said.

Along with hiring minority faculty, Michael said the university hopes to place a stronger focus on recruiting a diverse student population. These efforts are not just matters of black and white. He said this can also include students from out of state or students with disabilities.

Part of the diversity plan includes creating class sections with a diverse range of students, so all students may be exposed to diversity. The only way to do this, Michael said, is to recruit widely to ensure that diversity will follow naturally.

“It’s just a matter of getting them (minority students) here,” Michael said.

Once the university is able to create a diverse atmosphere in the classroom, Michael said students will see a number of benefits. Diversity in the classroom, he said, broadens minds, enriches learning, takes students to different worlds and enhances understanding and appreciation of differences.

“It prepares you for skills and understanding that are definitely required in the real world,” Michael said.

Sabolich said having a diverse student body benefits her classes as well.

“The examples, the experiences are useful because I can talk with some credibility about (different cultural) systems,” she said.

Other aspects of the university’s diversity plan include the following:

• Improving retention rates for minority students.

• Creating a welcoming environment through support and social groups.

• Leadership programs that promote diversity on campus, in the community and in the world.

• Equal progressive and promotion efforts for all students, regardless of race or gender.

• Embracing diversity concepts through required courses.

• Buying supplies, such as food and stationary, from minority-owned companies.

The university plans to move forward while embracing these concepts for the next three years.

In statistics from U.S. News and World Report on ethnic diversity at national universities, Kent State ranked near the bottom of the list, with a diversity index of .22 (out of 1.0). By 2010, Michael said he would like to improve this number to .30, the University of Akron’s current ranking.

Contact minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].