University Diversity Projects and the Inclusivity Challenge
Growing numbers of women; Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC); and low-income/first-in-family students are attending U.S. colleges. These groups are reportedly sought after by universities eager to improve their diversity profile; yet, many minoritized students still face challenging campus climates. Utilizing focus group interviews with 144 undergraduate participants at Meadow State University (MSU), a predominantly White institution (PWI), to examine whether and how campus experiences and sense of belonging vary by race/ethnicity, gender, and their intersections, Ovink and Murrell find that university goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) exist as sets of loosely-connected policies, practices, and behaviors they refer to as diversity projects.
Diversity projects may be accepted or challenged in different ways, depending on respondents' experiences, perspectives, and context of engagement on campus. These findings point to three aspects of collegiate life important to student belongingness that previous literature has not fully accounted for: engagement with educational programming and organizations, particularly those aimed at DEI initiatives; perceptions of institutional inclusion and outreach efforts; and complex experiences of intersectional identities and interlocking oppressions. A final consideration is whether and how "lessons learned" might be put into practice at PWIs in the broader U.S. context.
Sarah M. Ovink is an associate professor of Sociology at Virginia Tech. Her research focuses primarily on inequalities in higher education pathways by race/ethnicity, gender, and income, using mixed methods of inquiry. Her publications have appeared in a variety of journals, including Gender & Society, Social Currents, and Research in Higher Education. She is a co-editor of the recently released volume, Intersectionality and Higher Education: Identity and Inequality on College Campuses (2019, Rudgers University Press). She is the author of Race, Class, and Choice in Latino/a Higher Education: Pathways in the College-for-All Era (2017, Palgrave Macmillan).
Ovink is joined by co-author Ocqua Gerlyn Murrell, and Sylvester Johnson, Director of the Center for Humanities. Please join us for this important and engaging discussion. The livestream can be viewed and will be archived on the Center for Humanities YouTube channel. Register for the webinar by clicking the link provided.
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