Legislation passed in 2008 charged MICUA with reporting best practices used by Maryland’s independent colleges and universities to enhance cultural diversity. In the interests of building on successful policies and creating a blueprint for success, MICUA has identified the following best practices:
(1) Inclusion of cultural diversity in the institution’s mission statement and strategic plan serves as a constant reminder of the commitment of the institution to create an inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Institutions seek to eliminate discrimination, foster positive relations between members of different racial and ethnic groups, and promote the ideals of social justice and equity. Phrases such as “build inclusive communities” and “promote social responsibility” are common in institutional mission statements. Strategic goals related to diversity positively impact enrollment, hiring practices, curriculum, and the community of learners. Cultural diversity must be a component of the general education rubric.
(2) An office of diversity or a senior administrator responsible for diversity issues ensures that the institution’s commitment to cultural diversity is implemented and a central consideration in a broad range of campus activities.
(3) Campus publications and classroom presentations reflect diversity in photos and articles. In addition, displays of artwork in various locations on campus include works by diverse artists. Campuses can support this effort by creating a database of resources available to faculty, staff, and administrators.
(4) Librarians ensure that the library holdings include diverse materials, and faculty ensure that instructional materials cover diverse populations and perspectives.
(5) Colleges and universities sponsor cultural events throughout the year to recognize diverse populations. The cultural events may include film and book discussions; guest speakers from a broad range of backgrounds; visual art displays; music, theater, and dance productions; and food-tasting experiences that reflect various cultures. Effective events are planned in a collaborative manner by students, faculty, and staff.
(6) Effective strategies to recruit diverse students include: hosting college fairs in geographic areas with diverse student populations, engaging high school guidance counselors to identify and recruit diverse students, and employing admissions counselors who are responsible for multicultural recruitment.
(7) Partnerships with elementary and secondary schools with high minority enrollment are an excellent way to reach out to prospective students who may not be considering college attendance. Institutional representatives invite students to visit the campus and introduce prospective students to students of color who are successful at the institution.
(8) Colleges and universities that embrace need-blind admissions policies and provide substantial need-based financial aid are more likely to attract students of color. Endowed scholarship funds—though not exclusively for minority students—may be targeted toward high-ability students of color. Such scholarships reduce the dependence on loans and make an independent college or university affordable even to low-income students. As a result of these efforts, the number of student applications increases and diversity improves.
(9) Remove barriers that preclude low-income and first-generation students from considering college. Waive the application fee for underrepresented students, especially those who have participated in summer internships during high school. Provide scholarships or tuition waivers for academically talented and at-risk high school students who take college courses. Eliminate the requirement for SAT/ACT scores as part of the application process. By waiving fees, providing scholarships, and making standardized tests optional, institutions improve access and foster a welcoming environment.
(10) The year-long freshman experience program helps students transition from high school to college. Guest speakers, book discussions, films, and other activities focus on issues of race, oppression, power, and privilege, and provide an opportunity for dialog about these issues. In small group settings, students share, explore, and learn about one another’s cultural, religious, or ethnic similarities and differences. This is vital in fostering unity that remains throughout the college experience.
(11) Students who participate in orientation programs as freshmen often become mentors to future classes. This gives students an opportunity to give back to the institution and to assist new students, especially those from underrepresented groups, to make a successful transition to college life. Institutions recruit a diverse group of experienced students to serve as orientation leaders. These student leaders are able to have discussions around issues of cultural diversity, its relationship to the mission of the institution, and implications for working with students of diverse cultures.
(12) Summer bridge programs help students who have the ability to attain a college education, but require additional skills to succeed. These programs are also critical for students who are the first in their family to attend college. Students enhance their skills during the summer and eliminate the need for remedial or developmental courses once they matriculate in college.
(13) Institutions offer tutoring, mentoring, and support programs for beginning students, particularly those whose high school academic program did not adequately prepare them for college-level work. These services are particularly important in the areas of study skills, time management, and stress reduction. Diversity is an important consideration in assigning tutors and mentors.
(14) Grouping students together in a “family” (i.e., cohort) of individuals who mentor and support one another throughout their college experience is an effective practice. If one individual in the “family” falls behind in a course or program, the remaining members of the family assist to bring the family member back on track.
(15) The curriculum is infused with courses that address cultural diversity. Course content and delivery are sensitive to and promote diverse points of view and experiences among the students. Institutions ensure that textbooks include the global and cultural diversity issues appropriate to the topic of study. Institutions offer courses and majors in ethnic studies and encourage students to enroll in courses in non-western civilizations to learn the history, language, and customs of other cultures. Educational programs such as teaching and nursing embed community-based projects into the curriculum. These field experiences may be in schools or other settings that include disadvantaged children and/or adults.
(16) Colleges and universities include service learning as part of the curriculum. Community service projects offer students, faculty, and staff an opportunity to reach out to areas of the State that are underserved by providing services, such as after-school enrichment activities, tutoring, mentoring, English-language training, health care screening, home repairs, etc. Effective service-learning programs allow students to work alongside professionals to rebuild communities and learn about cultures of disenfranchised citizens. Community outreach efforts are designed to promote cross-cultural exchange and provide support for underrepresented ethnic groups. Participation in such activities helps broaden understanding of economic, social, and cultural issues. Students reflect on their experiences, which often have a profound impact on their lives and social consciousness.
(17) Institutions make a commitment to human rights for all citizens. Promoting social responsibility becomes an integral part of the educational experience. This goes beyond students and faculty on campus to the surrounding community and the world. Higher education has a responsibility to teach best practices—whether in health care for disadvantaged citizens or creating a sustainable environment—that students take with them throughout their lives.
(18) Study abroad programs that provide immersion in other cultures, customs, and languages are important for participating students and the campus at large. When students return to campus, the insights they gained help to enrich classroom discussions as they reflect upon their experiences in other countries. Study-abroad opportunities influence future leaders in a global learning community that promotes justice, health, sustainability, and peace.
(19) Leadership development is an important aspect of campus life. Institutions make certain that student leaders on campus represent a diverse population, and that students of color are nominated for leadership positions, including student government, club leaders, campus-wide committees, resident assistants, and new student orientation leaders. Leadership training helps students develop leadership potential and incorporates themes revolving around what it means to be a leader in a community of diverse populations.
(20) Institutions encourage all students to contribute ideas and articles to the student newspaper. This ensures that diverse viewpoints are reported.
(21) Student affairs professionals make certain that diversity is part of the residential life experience. This includes ensuring that a diverse pool of resident assistants is selected to interact with students in the residence halls. In addition, training for resident assistants includes matters related to cultural differences.
(22) Diversity among faculty and administrators enhances the educational experiences of all students and enriches intellectual discourse among the faculty. Institutions recruiting for faculty and administrator positions target media outlets with diverse viewers. Efforts are made to ensure that the institution has not used language in an advertisement that would narrow the field of eligible applicants. Institutions participate in career fairs sponsored by minority associations, such as the Association of Black Psychologists or the Society of Women Engineers. These activities have been successful in helping institutions to increase minority hires.
(23) Some institutions have successfully used fellowships to attract faculty of color to campus. These institutions have fostered an environment of inclusion during the fellowship year, which has encouraged visiting faculty to remain on a permanent basis after the conclusion of the fellowship.
(24) Institutions foster ongoing collaborations with historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions to attract diverse students to graduate programs. These students may serve as college faculty upon completion of their graduate programs.
(25) Several institutions have worked collaboratively with similar institutions in the region to address the recruitment of diverse faculty. The consortium approach has been successful in expanding opportunities and improving the retention of faculty of color. This helps to increase representation of specific ethnic groups and create a critical mass, which is especially important for small and rural campuses.
(26) Institutions offer training seminars designed to enhance the ability of colleges and universities to hire diverse faculty. The strategies learned in the seminars have proven to be successful in increasing the percentage of faculty of color.
(27) Institutions offer professional development to diverse faculty and administrators. Such programs are designed to prepare educators for leadership at the next level.
(28) Effective faculty orientation includes information about issues impacting culturally diverse students. It is important that faculty understand cultural differences to create a supportive learning environment.
(29) Diversity awareness training for faculty, staff, and administrators helps create an inclusive working environment. Effective programs include components for coaching and mentoring that emphasize diversity-minded institutional leadership, supervision strategies, and policy development.
(30) Institutions may benefit by sponsoring local chapters of formal organizations of faculty and administrators who share a particular ethnic or gender identity, such as Women in Science and Engineering or the Black Faculty and Staff Association. Such groups advocate and provide a unifying voice for their members, offer networking and professional development opportunities, and serve as an information resource to the college or university administration. In addition, the organizations work to recruit colleagues into fields that have been historically underrepresented by women and minorities. The local chapters often host regional or national meetings of the association. These activities shine a positive spotlight on the cultural diversity within the participating institutions.
(31) Flexible scheduling options provide incentives especially for faculty and staff with young children. Some examples are job sharing, working at home, on-site child care, shift compression, and liberal make-up policies.
(32) An effective part of evaluation is measuring success. Institutions that are successful in closing the achievement gap in retention and graduation rates between minority and majority populations are more likely to attract students and faculty of color. In addition, institutions keep track of the number of students who participate in multicultural programs throughout the year.
(33) Surveys of first-year students and graduating seniors help colleges and universities evaluate their progress in promoting cultural diversity and identify areas in need of improvement.