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The Value of Campus Diversity: The Emerging Research Picture
Debra Humphreys, Editor, Diversity Digest, and Director of Programs, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Global Initiatives


Since our first issue in 1996, we have highlighted in Diversity Digest the latest research about the impact of campus diversity on student learning and the quality of American higher education. We are devoting this special issue of Diversity Digest to research because, over the past four years, there has been a growing body of research documenting what many diversity practitioners have long known: diversity is a key component to educational excellence in the 21st century.

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) report featured in this issue suggests that our campuses will continue to become more and more diverse in the coming years. As AAC&U president, Carol Geary Schneider, responding to the release of this report, put it: "the evidence that diversity will increase on many of our campuses is very good news indeed. Diversity on campus and in the curriculum is producing new knowledge, new respect, and new commitment to intergroup community. This is an extraordinary resource for a democracy that is growing more diverse by the hour."

Research featured in these pages certainly paints a picture of the remarkable positive impact diversity initiatives are having on college campuses. Research also reveals, however, that we still have a long way to go. Climates on many college campuses are not fully welcoming of students from all backgrounds. There is still much both students and faculty need to learn about diversity both here in the U.S. and abroad. Racial/ethnic minority students are still underrepresented in the college-going population and, as ETS' report suggests, these groups aren't likely to be fully represented even by the year 2015.

As Schneider puts it, "while diversity is an invaluable source of new intelligence for our society, we shouldn't delude ourselves that this new learning can be easily achieved. Learning with and from people whose backgrounds and assumptions are different from one's own is wonderfully enriching; but given our histories of separation and suspicion, it can also be extremely difficult. We're in the midst of an era of very difficult dialogues about where we have been as a segregated and unequal society and where we want to go as a multicultural democracy."

We mustn't hesitate to document the impact diversity is having. Research can help us develop more effective diversity initiatives and help others understand the critical role diversity can play in improving higher education for all students.

We offer in these pages overviews of important research featured in past issues of Diversity Digest that can be found on DiversityWeb (www.diversityweb.org), and the latest new research on campus diversity today. We also offer tips for generating new data about the impact of diversity on your own campus, resources for helping you in your own assessment efforts, and information on the implications of diversity research findings for campus practice. We encourage you to let us know of new research you or your colleagues might be producing.


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Debra Humphreys