All educators will work with diverse groups of individuals throughout their career. A diverse group can encompass individuals with different opinions from one another, individuals who come from different cultures, or individuals who have a different skin tone. With this in mind, it is important for an educator deciding to pursue a graduate degree from an academic institution that provides a level of diverse students that enhance the graduate experience in an effort to better understand the students and families, educators work with daily.
How Does Diversity Impact a University?
When people from a variety of places come together to study, discuss, and create in a graduate study setting the outcome is valuable and impactful for each of the students. Students’ ideas and beliefs are shaped based on where they came from, but that does not mean a student’s mind cannot be opened to a different way of thinking. The level of diversity on an institution’s campus will allow for thought provoking discussions among students from different places. This environment may also encourage some students with strong opinions to learn to persuade others by substantiating their ideas with facts that cannot be debated.
A graduate program that is arranged in student cohorts will encourage individuals to work in cooperative groups and invite conversation amongst students even if they have differing opinions. Cohorts can help to build a successful outcome when working on various projects. These projects will allow students to build a potential portfolio that can be used in a students’ professional endeavors after graduate school. The students gain value in hearing the diverse thoughts of each student and each student has the ability to learn from one another.
A strongly diverse institution creates a school community of inclusivity for the students. Students are exposed to people from all walks of life. The students may learn different cultural rituals, foods, languages, and other life experiences through the exposure of diversity. As important as the academic curriculum is, students will be able to gain knowledge through the variety of thought brought into the classroom by the students everywhere is a priceless experience. When students select to study in environments that are traditional homogenous, the students will not be given the opportunity to hear opinions and experiences different than their own, and this could be a limiting environment.
The diverse social or academic student life available on an institution’s campus will open the minds of students. When students participate in new activities that broaden their personal lives it gives the students exposure to new ideas and thoughts that will give them personal growth.
What Characteristics Should You Look For?
Students seeking higher education beyond an undergraduate degree are first looking for an institution that has the specific program to support the student’s career goals. For example, students desiring to achieve a master’s degree in education or business could also be looking for a specific niche within that area. For example, an education student could be looking for a graduate degree in areas such as educational leadership, curriculum, or reading instruction. A business student could be seeking a higher level of understanding in business administration or a more niche area such as finance. Students begin by selecting the school that offers the desired program, then research should begin on the individual institutions.
The make-up of the student population for academic institution is public knowledge and can be viewed on the institution’s website. Students should pay attention to the percentage of the chance two random students are of a different race, ethnicity, or citizenship. Another indicator of a college’s diversity is indicated by the school’s diversity index found in the school’s profile. The closer a school’s diversity index is to 1.00 the more diverse the school. A school’s profile will also identify the one most dense student population found on the individual campuses. This information is also valuable for a prospective student to determine the make-up of students they will be learning from in the classroom.
Another characteristic when looking for a diverse institution is the make-up of diversity among the college faculty. Where are the professors from originally and/or where have they gained teaching experiences. The diversity of the faculty can impact the lessons taught, and the perspectives that are used to lead discussions among the students.
Students may also research the university’s student life by locating the number of different organizations on campus, the origin of the organizations, and the make-up of the organizations’ leaders and members. The interactions diverse student organizations have on a campus are valuable to the student’s academic and social growth and can play a huge part in earning any type of college degree.
What Characteristics Should You Avoid?
Students seeking a well-rounded graduate program should stay away from academic institutions that have a large majority of students from one racial or gender group. These schools benefit some students, but when desiring to learn from not only the professors but from peers that have various opinions due to racial and cultural groups, schools with homogenous student populations will not be able to provide that type of experience.
Another characteristic to avoid is a limited educational profile among the faculty members on a university campus. Loyalty and tenure are important to the professors, however, when professors can bring diverse experiences from the many institutions where they studied before settling at one university is another form of diversity that is valuable to the students. When professors have limited experience outside of the university they teach, it can stifle the ideas and lessons being taught to students.
One last characteristic for a student to avoid is an institution with a limited or total lack of diverse student life. Campuses without organizations available for various groups of people could be an indicator of a single-minded thought process that can be harmful for a student’s academic and social growth.
Students seeking to further an education with a degree beyond a bachelor’s degree should prioritize the importance of vetting the various institutions that offer the program to aid with advancing a profession, but also provides opportunities to learn from people that can share different experiences possibly based on race, culture, religion, and gender that will give a student a broader mind. A student’s experiences in college shape the opinions that many impact decisions made in a student’s professional life.