Diversity seems to be at the top of the agenda for higher education leaders now more than ever. Colleges and universities have created offices for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); added diversity statements to their websites; asked faculty applicants to provide diversity statements; and made myriad other efforts to attract faculty and students from a wider range of ethnic, racial, and demographic backgrounds. While such efforts are laudable, doubts remain about whether they will succeed in improving equity and inclusion for underrepresented individuals or simply continue to benefit groups that have been privileged throughout these institutions’ histories.
There are many challenges to achieving inclusive programs in higher education, from recruiting and retaining a diverse student population, faculty, and staff to managing diversity in ways that present desired outcomes. Even in the best situation, achieving a diverse, inclusive campus will clearly require planning, cooperation, and hard work.
Conversations about diversity typically center on racial diversity, and it’s one of the many important discussions leaders in higher education have. “We have to think broadly outside of ethnicity and race, but we’re still focused on what we can see as a difference,” says Rashid Mosley, assistant teaching professor in the College of Professional Studies.
In addition to race, Mosley recommends considering the following factors when making decisions surrounding diversity:
- Social status
- Student status (first-generation, etc.)
- Sexual orientation
- Personality type
Benefits of closing the gap
Having a diverse makeup of applicants and working toward the elimination of the diversity gap in higher education can yield numerous dividends. For example, a recent Forbes article reports that diversity boosts innovation and financial results in business. It can also yield key socioeconomic benefits for affected individuals as they prepare to enter the workforce.
Additional benefits include:
- Enhanced learning environments. Diversity in higher education enriches the learning experience for students, providing opportunities to interact with people from many different backgrounds. This improves collaboration skills and innovation.
- Improved cultural competency. Diversity in higher education prepares graduates for an increasingly globalized world, providing core competencies to navigate their careers in dynamic, multicultural work environments.
- Increased opportunity. Diversity in education increases chances for minorities to pursue high-level positions that may require advanced degrees, which give students from historically underrepresented communities opportunities to see themselves in their leaders.
- Stronger workforce. Closing the diversity gap can have an impact on the workforce in general. Diversity encourages coworkers to respect different nationalities and be more thoughtful of each other. This contributes to productivity and teamwork.
Colleges and universities admissions teams are closing the diversity gap on their campuses to ensure students are prepared with the competencies and understanding necessary to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Universities can use any of several strategies to help close this gap and mitigate its effects. Strategies such as improving mentoring and guidance, setting more complete long-term achievement benchmarks, recruiting and hiring diverse faculty and staff.
The participation of underrepresented students of color decreases at multiple points across the higher education pipeline including at application, admission, enrollment, persistence, and completion.
Technology to the Rescue
There is a software platform that enables meeting the goals of diversity initiatives. The REUApp was developed specifically for higher education and not only automates recruitment and admissions but also has demographic filters that help to identify underrepresented applicants from the data collected before the application is even submitted. This is a big plus for admissions teams and a unique offering in the marketplace.
Other features of the REUApp is the capability to streamline the processes with automated modules that are designed for each of the user groups, including a reviewer module. There are tickler/reminder systems in place, templates, rating systems, and ways to share information- or not – among other participating reviewers. This could be used to avoid biases among colleagues when rating an applicant. After admissions is complete, the software securely stores the data which makes any DEI reporting accurate and easier.
Since its launch, the REUApp has been very well received as it continues to add more features. The ease of use, no need for IT departments to get involved, no software to download nor licensing fees nor contracts makes this software the only real automated option that exists for college and university admissions teams.
If you are managing recruitment and admissions and would like to better target applicants who meet DEI criteria along with a smooth workflow, click here to learn about the REUApp.
Or better yet, schedule a quick demo and access the REUApp calendar here.
Sanmita is an award-winning strategy, design and technology firm with over 15 years’ experience working with higher education. Check out our projects, great testimonials from major universities, and our exceptional leadership team.