As we pause between the spring and the summer terms, I would like to continue a discussion of some concepts that we as a University value. As an institution, we chose five ideals that we call "Core Values" when we recrafted our University's mission a few years ago. These Core Values are the foundation for our decisions:
According to the Collins English Dictionary, diversity is "the state or quality of being different or varied" (2012, Collins). So how does a University value diversity? Perhaps the better question is "how can its people value diversity" for that will define how we as a University value diversity. For me, valuing diversity begins with the realization that each individual has worth separate and apart from the labels and values that may be assigned to them. It is a realization that we are too quick to believe that we understand or know someone else just by knowing (or thinking that we know) one of their characteristics. How many tall men are assumed to be good basketball players? When we assume that we know something about someone, we may be right - but we may be dead wrong. Next, valuing diversity means respecting people who are not just like me. By the way, I am so glad that the world is not populated with clones of Chris Boyett...what a dull, boring, incomplete world this would be.
For our students, we must first show them the respect and dignity that they deserve as human beings. We must treat them as we would want to be treated, but this is not enough. We must teach our students to do the same. We must teach our students to thrive in a world of people with different backgrounds, characteristics, skills, and viewpoints. We only have students for a short amount of time - after graduation, they leave us and either move on to a much larger university or into the world of work. Either way, each student will work in a society that is more diverse than the environment in which they were raised. Whether they cope or not will determine their success or failure. We hope to set them up to succeed.
By the way, I almost omitted "Global Awareness." We live in small town America - the buckle of the Bible Belt. (I personally am very thankful for this). Thirty years ago, not many cared about the economic health of Greece - but we care today. We live on a big blue ball that gets smaller each day. Our students may not need to be experts in geography and foreign policy, but they need to understand as much as they can about the people and the issues that will affect their livelihood and their freedom. Thirty years from now, as these students begin looking at retirement, few will have had a career devoid of working with people and companies overseas. It might be a supplier for their business, a buyer of their goods, or a partner in a mission of good will, but they will need to be prepared for these endeavors.
diversity. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved May 23, 2012, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/diversity