Today, the population of students on our college campuses is more diverse than ever before (Coomes & DeBard, 2004; McClellan & Larimore, 2009). Over the past 30 to 40 years there has been an increase in college enrollment by individuals from historically underrepresented groups including, women, individuals with varying disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities and foreign and international citizens (Pope, Reynolds & Mueller, 2004). The effects of these enrollment increases have caused higher education to adapt traditional practices to better meet the needs of these new student populations (Coomes & DeBard, 2004). Colleges and universities have been challenged with implementing new programs and services to assist in attracting more students from historically underrepresented groups; in addition to the task of creating new campus infrastructures focused on meeting the developmental and learning needs of students from multicultural populations (Keeling, 2004). Beyond the amendment of classroom practices and academic curriculums, historically it has been the responsibility of student affairs divisions to support the academic mission of institutions by facilitating and creating environments that enhance student learning and development for all student groups (Pope, Reynolds & Mueller, 2004). Inclusivity is a major component of supporting the academic mission of institutions, when considering the importance of diversity in preparing students for citizenry and professional working environments. Inclusivity and diversity must exist as institutional level initiatives and priorities if institutions desire to develop a contingency of citizen leaders for the common good.
Being inclusive goes beyond providing offices, programs and services for students, but includes creating a culture of acceptance throughout a campus by integrating diversity within the very fabric of the institution. All members of the campus community are expected and encouraged to embody a sense of acceptance, and inclusiveness when collaborating with other internal stakeholders and when designing learning and development opportunities for students. Although providing safe spaces for students to congregate and seek necessary counseling and or advice around their various social identities is important, the ultimate goal of any institution should be to make students feel welcomed and open to engage themselves within the campus community without the need of separate services, offices and or programs. Higher education professionals have to reconsider the ways in which we promote diversity and inclusivity on campus and to our students. Working to create a culture of acceptance begins with revisiting the norms and traditions that exist within an environment, and seeking to understand how these cultural aspects can either marginalize or negatively affect specific student populations. Creating a more inclusive campus involves asking tough questions and requires a level of discomfort or press in the areas of racial or ethnic differences, contrasting belief systems and cultural unawareness. Administrators, staff, faculty and students alike must be challenged to conceptualize the affect of their personal ideologies and stereotypes on various social identity groups and subpopulations. The end goal is to limit the affect of environmental incongruence that exist for specific multicultural groups; thus creating a campus that values and appreciates the learning and development that can take place from the exploration of human differences.
In order to create a more welcoming and inviting environment for students from historically underrepresented population, inclusivity and diversity must exist as the foundational component of any institution, and should holistically be embraced by all those attached to the institution (McClellan & Larimore, 2009; Schlossberg, 1989). Through the professional and practical tenets set by Learning Reconsidered, The Office of Diversity and Inclusions seeks to create opportunities for each member of the Longwood Community to understand themselves as they develop an appreciation for human differences through exposure to new ideologies, concepts, cultures, norms and beliefs. Our goal is to provide students and institutional stakeholders alike with the opportunity to incorporate the use of individual and group reflection as personal concepts, stereotypes and ideologies are challenged and conformed into higher levels of thinking around issues of indifference. Additionally, The Office of Diversity and Inclusion understands the unique needs of students from historically underrepresented populations and strives to create immersive and reflective co-curricular educational and leadership experiences that speak to their specific needs and interest. Through these efforts the Office of Diversity and Inclusion hopes that these students experience an equitable opportunity to acquire knowledge and develop the social skills deemed necessary to be considered citizen leaders.