Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Diversity Digest Volume 9, Number 2

Diversity Digest
Volume 9,
Number 2

Download our print issue (PDF)
Campus-Community Connections
Intercultural Learning for Inclusive Excellence
Why Allen and Joan Bildner and the Bildner Family Foundation Funded a Statewide Diversity Initiative
Learning to Listen as We Lead
Institutional Models That Cultivate Comprehensive Change
Curricular Transformation
Where Worlds Converge
Curricular Transformation through Collaborative Teaching
Intercultural Learning in First-Year Seminars
Designing Intercultural and Cross-cultural Spaces
Enhancing Collaborative Leadership of Faculty and Staff
Faculty-Driven Curricular Change
Diversity as Shared Practice
Dialogue Groups at Princeton University Library
Faculty Involvement
Epistles, Posters, and Pizza
Forging Campus-Community Connections
"Beyond Food"
Cross-cultural by Design
Student Experience
Something to Declare
Putting Student Voices in Public Spaces
Café Bergen
Institutional Leadership and Committment
Assessing Diversity Attitudes in First-Year Students
Infusing Cultural Competency into Health Professions Education

Institutional Models That Cultivate Comprehensive Change

By Michael Knox, doctoral student in higher education and organizational change, University of California–Los Angeles, and Daniel Hiroyuki Teraguchi, associate director and research associate, AAC&U

At the instigation of Allen and Joan Bildner of the Bildner Family Foundation, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) conducted a study in 2004 of diversity initiatives in the state of New Jersey. The Bildners wanted to investigate how campuses were institutionalizing their diversity work, not simply among the Bildner grantees, but in all of New Jersey’s colleges and universities. Because New Jersey is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse states in the country and is fifth in the nation in foreign-born residents, it provides a rich context for understanding the ways in which colleges and universities are serving their state’s diverse populations and tapping into that diversity as an educational resource. Drawing on data from a statewide survey, Web research, and interviews, we created four developmental models that map diversity initiatives at various stages of their evolution, identify strengths and weaknesses of each stage, and recommend possible strategies for improvement.

These models suggest that striking a balance between macro and micro diversity efforts on campuses will increase the potential for institutionalization. The study used three measures to determine the extent of that balance: centrality, pervasiveness, and integration. Assessing “centrality” involves looking at macro diversity efforts on campus, especially the commitments of institutional leaders and the creation of supportive infrastructures. Our study also examined the “pervasiveness” of micro diversity initiatives, or the extent to which projects, programs, and curricular and cocurricular movements attend to diversity. Our efforts to assess “integration” focused on the extent to which macro and micro efforts worked together to achieve a common vision for institutionalizing diversity. The models depicted in figure 1 suggest progress toward creating comprehensive institutional change and help identify areas that might need improvement.

Figure 1. Developmental diversity initiative models


By coding campus diversity work as micro and macro efforts and using models to represent the relative presence of campus work on diversity issues, this study suggests a possible correlation between comprehensive diversity initiative designs and outcomes of educational quality, institutional sustainability, and academic excellence. Our study suggests that the extent to which educational quality, institutional sustainability, and academic excellence can be achieved depends in part upon the effectiveness and presence of diversity initiatives across the institution.

Campus Diversity Initiative Outcomes

The educational quality of a diversity initiative refers to the extent to which diversity is central to the educational experience of students throughout an institution. While the educational quality of an individual activity, such as a course, is largely determined by content, the three measures in this study (centrality, pervasiveness, and integration) serve as predictors of the educational quality of a diversity initiative as a whole. In other words, high levels of centrality, pervasiveness, and integration are likely to correlate with a high level of educational effectiveness for the combined diversity efforts across an institution.

Institutional sustainability refers to the permanence of a diversity initiative on campus. Often diversity efforts fade away after a particular grant runs out or the “champion” leaves an institution. If a diversity initiative has high levels of both centrality and pervasiveness, the initiative as a whole, as well as individual efforts, are more likely to be sustained because they are supported across the institution. Sustainability is further enhanced by integrating diversity work among micro spheres and between micro and macro spheres across the institution.

In addition, a highly integrated initiative ensures that everyone shares responsibility for its success, lessening the burden on any particular individual and making it more likely that individual efforts can survive shifts in both staffing and funding. The resulting high level of sustainability allows for constant evolution and growth for diversity initiatives, since those engaged in diversity efforts are not constantly recreating and rebuilding their work.

Academic excellence refers to high levels of student learning. As campuses attend to centrality, pervasiveness, and integration, student learning is enhanced through the creation of highly integrated and holistic learning experiences that continually develop over time. When diversity is a core institutional value, campuses are able to create comprehensive learning environments that bridge the gap between seemingly disparate courses, the curriculum and cocurriculum, and academic and applied experiences. In bridging these gaps and integrating experiences throughout the institution, student outcomes will be enhanced. Overall, academic excellence is achieved by the centrality and pervasiveness of diversity efforts, and further enhanced by the integration of the many macro and micro efforts that comprise diversity initiatives.

Institutionalized Model

In figure 2, the institutionalized model describes a diversity initiative deeply and broadly embedded in a campus culture with evaluation as a core component to foster constant improvement. It depicts the outcomes of a campus diversity initiative when it has high levels of centrality, pervasiveness, and integration. We posit that the placement of diversity as an institutional core value in all institutional affairs and the integration between centrality (macro efforts) and pervasiveness (micro efforts) enhance educational quality, institutional sustainability, and academic excellence. The end result is diversity as a core value of the institution, which in turn creates a holistic learning environment that prepares students to be empowered, informed, and responsible citizens of our local and global communities.

Figure 2. Institutionalized model


Final Thoughts

AAC&U hopes that the models that have emerged from this study will help institutions appraise their own institutional structure and culture in order to deploy diversity initiatives to maximize student learning. By gathering data throughout the institution, a given college or university can create a comprehensive profile of the current state of its diversity initiatives and determine where it falls among, or perhaps between, AAC&U’s four models. The institution can then identify areas of strength and areas in need of improvement.

For further details on the survey, the analysis, and the developmental models, visit www.diversityweb.org/diversity_innovations/institutional_leadership/

Questions, comments, and suggested resources should be directed to campbell@aacu.org.
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