A key professional competency for AACRAO members is knowing how to discuss and advocate for access and inclusion for diverse student populations
This conversation has often centered around racial identities and the lack of access to opportunities certain groups have experienced, according to Dr. Monique L. Snowden, Fielding Graduate University Interim Provost & Senior Vice President and chair of the AACRAO Professional Access & Equity Committee
. But the conversation is actually much broader and more complicated than that.
What do we mean by “diversity”?
“Ironically, we’ve been approaching the topic of diversity not necessarily from a diverse perspective, but from a monolithic perspective. It is common to view diversity primarily from a racial standpoint, rather than from a diverse perspective of intersectionality,” Snowden said. “Students are beginning to demand the right to identify in multiple ways, not just in race but in cultural, ethnic, and other ways.”
Identities run across many spectra in addition to race and ethnicity, such as gender, body ableness, and socio-economic status. Students needs must be met in a variety of ways, not all of which are immediately apparent. Meeting these needs affects areas beyond recruitment, including retention, persistence, and timely completion.
(The 2018 AACRAO publication Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Student Body,
co-authored by Snowden, takes a deeper look at a range of strategic and operational matters that inform, influence, and yield the recruitment and retention of diverse student bodies.)
What do we mean by “inclusion,” and whose job is it, anyway?
“It’s not enough to just open the door and say, ‘you’re welcome here,’” Snowden said. Students want to experience a fully inclusive environment. They want to feel a sense of belonging, in tune with what’s happening at their college or university.”
Student engagement for diverse populations may be explored by a chief diversity officer, although traditionally in the purview of student affairs or student life. It is the job of everyone at an institution , including academic affairs, to build an inclusive culture. That means registrars and faculty, too, must understand diversity and equity issues and embrace their respective responsibilities for relationship-building with students.
“Faculty play a critical role in helping students feel like they belong, can be successful, and made the right college choice,” Snowden said. “Enrollment management professionals tend to function at the perimeters versus core of the academic domain, but they should communicate to the whole of campus and collaborate on curricular and program matters, whether EM is located in student or academic affairs.”
Instead of blaming the student, examine the institution
“We continue to approach certain student populations with a deficit mindset,” Snowden explained. “We look at data, see a gap, and the first thing we tend to do is attribute the problem to the student: their family, their circumstances -- rather than looking at how the institution may be culpable.”
For example, if the data shows that students of color are less effective in the engineering program, a common first response is to problematize the student -- saying they have lower SAT quantitative scores, they went to less rigorous high schools, or they came from unsupportive families, and so on -- rather than examining possible failures of advising, cultural competencies, and other programmatic shortcomings.
“We need to promote developing an equity mindset: asking what institutions can do to better understand nuances among the student population and respond to and engage different students with appropriate services and resources,” Snowden said.
Snowden and other authors of Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Student Body
will share their insights and invite a deeper dialogue in their eye-opening session at the 2018 AACRAO SEM Conference. Join them November 11-14, 2018, in Washington, D.C.