Diversity and Inclusion in the Academy: A Classroom Perspective

Diversity and Inclusion in the Academy: A Classroom Perspective

Susan Swayze (The George Washington University, USA) and Rick C. Jakeman (The George Washington University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7438-5.ch004

Abstract

This chapter describes how graduate students of color and lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) students define diversity and inclusion and describe their classroom experiences with diversity and inclusion. In semi-structured interviews with graduate students of color and students who self-identified as LGB, differing views of diversity and inclusion emerged—diversity was described numerically, while inclusion was discussed in terms of action. Further, graduate students of color described diversity based on visible signs of representation while LGB graduate students emphasized inclusion and the need for voice. This chapter concludes with recommendations that faculty members can enact to create more inclusive classroom environments in higher education.
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Background

Diverse campuses create opportunities, both inside and outside of the classroom, for experiences with students of different racial backgrounds, sexual orientations, and points of view. In this chapter, the authors focus on the experiences of two underrepresented groups—students of color and LGB students—in classroom learning environments. This qualitative inquiry describes how underrepresented students conceptualize diversity and inclusion and navigate their classroom experiences. Post-secondary institutions have committed to diversity and inclusion efforts including recruitment strategies for students and faculty members from diverse backgrounds, retention plans to keep students enrolled and moving toward graduation, and multicultural perspectives within the academic curriculum (Hu & Kuh, 2003). Student benefits of diverse learning environments are well documented in the literature with diverse learning environments leading to positive academic outcomes for students, including increased cognitive sophistication, critical thinking skills, academic development, and problem solving abilities (Antonio, 2001; Bowman, 2010; Cannaday & Swayze, 2017; Denson, 2009; Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, & Gurin, 2002; Hu & Kuh, 2003; Pascarella, 2001; Pascarella et al., 2014; Swayze, 2017; Terenzini, Cabrera, Colbeck, Bjorklund, & Parente, 2001). Additional positive outcomes for students include an increased level of cultural awareness and racial understanding, feelings of empowerment toward social change, discussions of racial and ethnic issues, and a willingness to utilize multiple perspectives (ACE/AAUP, 2000; Chang, 2002; Gurin et al., 2002; Mayhew et al., 2016). The studies have “overwhelmingly concluded that when diversity is actively attended to, a diverse campus will lead to increased educational and social outcomes for all students” (Pitt & Packard, 2012, p. 295).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sexual Orientation: The term is used to refer to a person’s sexual identity. In this study, students were asked to self-identify.

Graduate Students: The term is used to describe students pursuing post-undergraduate degrees.

Students of Color: The term is used to refer to students that belong to an ethnic group that is not white. In this study, students were asked to self-identify.

Learning Environments: The term is used to refer to places and contexts in which learning occurs.

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