As we developed the 2007 UCCS Diversity Strategic Plan with broad participation of faculty, staff, students and community members, we frequently circled around to the question of what we really meant by diversity and inclusiveness. We agreed on certain basic definitions and core principles to facilitate planning and inform sustained action. These were incorporated into the plan that was approved by the Board of Regents and continue to undergird our strategic planning through 2020. The following summarizes core principles and definitions:
The University of Colorado Colorado Springs is charged with providing opportunities for high education to the general public and with offering the fruits of knowledge, research and cultural development for the betterment of the broader public good. To truly serve the public, the university must be inclusive of everyone, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, age, social class, gender identity and expression, abilities, religious values, political viewpoints, national origin, military status, to name some of the social and cultural difference that can create barriers. Historically, certain social groups have been excluded and marginalized within public higher education, creating legacies of advantage and disadvantage. The principle of diversity advocates a university that is inclusive of all while overcoming the legacies of exclusion.
Promoting diversity and inclusion corrects shortcomings in the university's service to the public, but also contributes very directly to the quality of learning for all that participate in university education. To put it simply, diversity does not just benefit groups that have historically been left out: diversity contributes excellence to the education of all UCCS students. To realize this potential requires more than reflecting diversity within the composition of our student body, staff, and faculty. The challenge is for members of the university community to engage fully across social and cultural differences, and to integrate lessons from distinct cultural perspectives into their development of knowledge, skills, and character.
Acquiring the cultural competence to work effectively with people of diverse backgrounds requires an informed understanding of others and, perhaps, most critically, an informed understanding of one's own social and cultural origins as a point of departure. A UCCS education must therefore be a journey of self-discovery, even while imparting training in scholarly traditions and methods of knowledge acquisition. Diversity within the student body, faculty, and staff are resources in this regard, but should be reinforced with conscious and reflective efforts to engender multicultural knowledge and understanding.
Demographic changes in the U.S. population and increased global interconnections have drawn broad attention to the need for diversity within institutions of higher education. But, we should not expect to foster diversity with generic solutions that do not address the particular context of UCCS. Diversity at UCCS should build on the particular characteristics of this institution, the public we serve, and the publics we can grow to serve-inclusiveness should engage students from historically underrepresented groups while integrating the experiences of commuters and campus residents, single parents, active duty military, seniors, first-generation students, gay people, conservatives, international students, Olympians, and honors students, among others.
Making UCCS more inclusive depends in critical ways on the relationships that are fostered and sustained outside the university. The connection with recruiting and retaining diverse students, staff-members and faculty is quite apparent, but such "pipelines" will not be established unless the university is actively engaged with diverse communities. Community engagement increases our value as public university: as a trusted resource, as an ally, as an engine of economic development and as an international partner. Such broad support is fundamental in the very competitive and challenging context of public higher education.
UCCS diversity strategies are not peripheral activities. For diversity to create university excellence it must be central to university planning, decision-making, and development. This assumes that diversity is everybody's business rather than the job of minority groups or of certain designated programs. With broad participation, diversity holds the promise, not only of expanding who the university serves, but transforming the way our work is done as teaching, scholarship, student support, and community engagement are adapted to multicultural and global contexts. Implementation requires resources and sustained attention because strategies that enhance diversity and inclusiveness are generally good for the future of UCCS.
Diversity of people and ideas represents, among other things, differences in ethnicity, race, gender, age, class, sexual orientation, abilities, religious and spiritual values, political viewpoints, veteran status and gender identity and expression. Historically, certain social groups have been excluded and marginalized within public higher education, creating legacies of advantage and disadvantage. The principle of diversity advocates a university that is inclusive of all, while overcoming the legacies of exclusion and marginalization to create equity within the university experience.
Inclusiveness is the commitment to create an environment that supports, represents and embraces members of diverse social groups and diverse social identities. Inclusiveness enriches the campus community for students, faculty, staff, administrators and members of the broader community by engaging people from diverse personal and experiential backgrounds, by cultivating a campus culture where all members feel that they belong, and by fostering engagement with divergent perspectives that reflect the wide range of understanding and knowledge necessary for a vibrant democratic society.
Cultural competency is a set of congruent individual and institutional behaviors, attitudes, practices, and policies that creates an inclusive environment and experience for members of diverse communities and social identities. Cultural competency is based on integrating the awareness, knowledge-base, and learned skills needed to effectively and sensitively educate, work with, and serve people from diverse backgrounds and social identities. Becoming culturally competent in our everyday interactions and institutional practices will enable the university to best serve its diverse constituencies, including social groups that have been historically marginalized or excluded from higher education.