Ten Ways to Be More Inclusive

As Catholic campuses, we strive to build a true sense of community and oneness based on our understanding that we are all children of God. ACCU member institutions have developed many successful initiatives to bring about greater diversity and a stronger sense of inclusion. Here, we share just a few of those practices that have helped forge vibrant, welcoming campus communities.

1. Make a visible commitment to diversity — that starts at the top. As the nation grapples with conflicting views and tense rhetoric, Catholic college leaders have the opportunity to raise high the value of diversity and inclusion. In a recent State of the University address, Madonna University President Michael Grandillo reminded his campus of the longstanding Franciscan commitment to diversity, embodied in the institution’s diversity committee, the appointment of a nationally known diversity expert to the board of directors, and other activities. Ursuline College President Sr. Christine De Vinne is teaching a course this spring, “50 Years of Diversity at Ursuline, 1966-2016,” exploring changes in the local community since the 1966 desegregation riots.

2. Increase faculty and staff diversity and encourage their commitment to inclusion. Diversity among faculty and staff can create a more inclusive and robust learning environment for everyone. At the College of the Holy Cross, the Diversity Leadership Team is charged with developing a comprehensive approach to diverse hiring, including building networks to attract a diverse faculty. The team also focuses on developing faculty’s inclusion skills in teaching, scholarship, and community engagement. At Xavier University (Ohio), Mission Animators — a group of faculty and staff who work to integrate Jesuit identity into everyday campus life — is offering mini-grants this year to faculty and staff who create programming on the theme of immigration.

3. Make the admissions process accessible for underserved communities. Recruitment material can make a clear and visible statement that your campus welcomes a diverse student body. The College of Saint Mary created a branding campaign with a Spanish-language component, adding a section for Spanish-speaking parents to its website. The Holy Names University website features a prominent link to Spanish translations of all admissions and financial aid information and forms. And the University of St. Thomas (Texas) offers detailed information about the university in Spanish and Vietnamese through its website. The site also links to Spanish-language videos that include a campus tour and a walk-through of the admissions process.

4. Increase affordability for underserved student populations. Financial support can be critical to attendance decisions. Beginning in fall 2017, Immaculata University will offer a $10,000 inclusion grant to five full-time freshmen. The grants will support initiatives that strengthen and promote diversity on campus, focusing on race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. A College of Saint Benedict alumna committed $1.5 million to create scholarships for students from under-represented communities and first-generation students, challenging participation from other alumni. Each year at St. Edward’s University, 35 students from migrant worker families enter the College Assistance Migrant Program, which provides nearly full financial support, as well as a dedicated office that acts for many as a segunda casa.

5. Help bridge the transition to college. To encourage degree completion, some students – especially those who are first-generation college students – need encouragement and support in setting a path to higher education. Donnelly College’s Gateway to College program is designed for high school students who have fallen behind in their studies because of family issues, language challenges, or other reasons. The free program helps motivated students earn a high school diploma while amassing college credits. Each summer, Duquesne University hosts its Project SEED program, which provides economically disadvantaged high school students an opportunity to define a STEM-related research project and work in a campus lab alongside a faculty supervisor and graduate student mentor. St. Leo University’s Center for Student Success assists targeted student populations and their families in transitioning to the university. The program encourages academic, professional, and personal development through a range of resources.

6. Celebrate diverse cultures on campus. Student success is encouraged when they feel welcome and appreciated; simple efforts include offering Mass in Spanish. At Christian Brothers University, the student-led organization Hola CBU has grown from a club into a large organization with an infrastructure that partners with the community to bring Latin cultural events to campus, including Salsa and Bachata Nights. Stonehill College’s annual DiverCity Festival is “part celebration, part education,” and features dance, song, fashion, art, and spoken word performances that explore diversity and social issues. 

7. Support minority students who are pursuing high-need careers. Underrepresented students may be the first in their families to pursue a career in fields such as science or technology. Offering them specialized resources can help them achieve their goal. St. Mary’s University (Texas) recently received a $5.3 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions STEM program. The five-year grant will fund creation of new STEM programs and include coaching services for Hispanic students. Villanova University hosts a number of efforts, such as a weeklong Diversity in Engineering camp, designed to introduce STEM topics to students in low-income communities and inspire their interest in related careers.

8. Tap alumni to support diversity initiatives. Many graduates who have achieved success are looking to give back. The University of Dayton’s Office of Multicultural Affairs offers an Alumni Engagement Program that connects alumni with current students who are of diverse backgrounds, helping boost student retention and persistence. The program cultivates opportunities for graduates to provide mentorship and other forms of support, while identifying students who would benefit from alumni guidance. Alumni may also sponsor a student’s textbooks through the Diverse Students Population fund.

9. Be a conduit for efforts to address diversity beyond the campus. St. Thomas University (Florida) partners with MCCJ, formerly the Miami Coalition for Christians and Jews, for the annual MetroTown diversity leadership camp on the university’s campus. The six-day camp brings together high school students from across the region to learn cross-cultural teamwork and conflict resolution by exploring race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and socio-economic issues. Students from the University of St. Francis (Illinois) serve as fellows for the Multi-Cultural Education Recruitment in Teaching program, which seeks to increase diversity among PK-12 teachers. Participants explore issues related to the demographics of the teacher and student pipelines, as well as national efforts to diversify the teaching profession.

10. Reach out to national organizations to learn more. Many organizations and federal agencies offer support to students from underrepresented backgrounds, their families, and institutions that want to serve them. The U.S. Department of Education lists such offices at https://sites.ed.gov/hispanic-initiative/ federal-agencies-answer-call-to-action/. Organizations like the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities offer useful programming and research for campuses, as does Excelencia in  Education. ACCU member Mexican American Catholic College also offers programming for other Catholic colleges that want to better serve the Hispanic population. 

Other resources:

Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education, a November 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Education


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