Why diversity matters

I had the chance Tuesday to sit down with two of my great friends in higher education in this region — Doris Givens, president of the Kansas City (Ks.) Community College and Bernadette Gray-Little, chancellor of the University of Kansas — and talk about a subject near and dear to my heart: the importance of diversity.

We were part of a panel discussion at the Greater Kansas City Chamber ACE awards on April 10, an event dedicated to honoring people who break down barriers and go the extra mile to promote diversity. Our Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Mel Tyler was one of the very deserving winners this year.

Diversity is one of the core values of UMKC — and it’s a critical value for anyone who wants to succeed in our increasingly complex, multicultural world today. As I said at the event today the more culturally diverse we are, the more apt we are to be equipped for change. I think Doris hit the nail on the head when she said that diversity isn’t just something you can see on the outside. Sometimes those differences come about because of life experiences — for example, a student or an employee might be a veteran or a single parent.

Campuses should be places that celebrate our human differences. Educators have to be attuned to the needs of people with a wide range of experiences so they can create programs that help students succeed and feel welcome, no matter their background. Students must come with open minds, ready to meet and learn from people with vastly different backgrounds who have lots to share.

As Bernadette noted, sometimes, embracing your discomfort can be a good thing. I couldn’t agree more.



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