Why are we still talking about diversity and inclusion?

By Dr. Susan Wilson, Vice Chancellor, Division of Diversity and Inclusion

Pillar 4 of UMKC’s new strategic plan reaffirms UMKC’s commitment to diversity through the statement “Foster an environment of invigorating multiculturalism, globalism, diversity and inclusion.”  This statement acknowledges the role of universities in preparing students to work and thrive in a today’s global marketplace.  Yet there are some who think, “Diversity—here we go again! What are we still talking about this?”

There are good reasons why we continue our focus on diversity and inclusion.  Diverse organizations are better able to meet the needs of their clients, customers and marketplace. At UMKC, our customers are our students. We are keenly aware that the demographics of future college students will be changing. A recent survey, “Knocking at the College Door,” reported, “20 to 45 percent of the nation’s public high school graduates are projected to be non-White, up by more than 7 percent over the class of 2009.” Women now comprise about 57 percent of all college students, up from 40 percent in the 1970s. Universities are also seeing higher enrollments of international, veteran and non-traditional students

What does this mean for us as an urban-serving university? As our students change, we must change. An understanding of culture and language helps us forge better relationships with students. Students expect education that is more flexible and is tailored to individual needs.  Diverse students want to know—before they enroll—that UMKC has programs and services that promote a sense of belonging. Instead of college being a “sink or swim” experience, students desire to have access to programs that are designed to support the success of diverse students.

This work is not easy and we still have progress to make. The good news is that UMKC is well on its way to address the needs of new generations for students that will be diverse, global and multicultural.