What is Diversity?
What comes to mind when you hear the word diversity? For many, race, age, and gender diversity are what first come to mind. However, diversity comes in many different forms, including some you might not have considered before.
According to ideal., these different types of diversity can be broken down into four broad categories.
First, there is internal diversity (identities you are born into), which includes race, age, cultural identity, assigned sex, etc. Next, there is external diversity (characteristics of your identity that develop over time), which includes things such as your education, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, and even your relationship status. Another is organizational diversity which includes any organized group that is public or private or a volunteer organization. Finally, there is worldview diversity (the lens through which you view and experience the world), which includes your moral compass, political beliefs, and your outlook on life.
The Benefits to Embracing Diversity
College communities often introduce you to new perspectives, languages, and activities. A diverse college community will help sharpen your critical thinking and analytical skills, prepare you to succeed in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, break down stereotypes, and reduce bias. Learning about different cultures can also help you better understand your own as sometimes your own culture can be invisible to you.
How Can You Adapt to Living in a Diverse Community?
Living in a college community that is full of diversity can be a difficult transition for some students who have never experienced it before. So what's the best way to embrace diversity? A good way to adapt to a diverse population is to focus on what you have in common, rather than your differences. Finding your common ground is the best way to start a new friendship with someone. Maybe you both share a love of basketball, or maybe you both happen to listen to Phoebe Bridgers. Once you have built a strong connection based on the common ground you share, then you should explore the differences between yourselves in a respectful manner. Ask questions! You'll never know if you don't ask.
As a general rule of thumb for embracing diversity, avoid any type of stereotyping. Stereotyping is hurtful because it makes assumptions about one's identity that can be incorrect. Take it upon yourself to unlearn any biases you may have. One of the most crucial ways to start this work is by delinking stereotypes from identities and absolute truths: “You're not trying to be color-blind or pretend that these categories don't exist, but you don't presume you know anything about a person based on their identity.”
Being respectful is the key to adapting to a new, diverse environment. To prevent or resolve conflicts that may occur in any social interaction, you should maintain an attitude of respect for others, be open-minded and willing to compromise, and know how to work together calmly to resolve conflicts.
Get involved! Simply interacting with diverse groups of people can help you adapt to and embrace diversity. Studies have shown in different situations where various prejudices were present, interacting with diverse groups of people vastly improves a sense of empathy. Psychologists have also learned that the creation of a mixed-race group, such as a political party or an intramural sports team, can override pre-existing racial biases toward other group members. More interactions can also encourage people to develop individuation—the cognitive ability to see members of a racial group as unique individuals.
Getting involved isn't just for those with identities that fit into the majority. In fact, it can be even more crucial for those in the minority. Seeking out people whom you share significant commonalities as a member of a minority group can be beneficial in many ways. It can be comforting to find people who are from the same or similar background as you. Coethnic peers can help foster a sense of belonging and serve as role models. One way you can seek out these types of connections is getting involved with student organizations such as the Black Student Union and the LGBTQIA alliance. These types of organizations help students build friendships within and across different groups and confer institutional support for personal development around ethnic identity. These are places where students can learn while being protected from the prejudice and discrimination they may experience elsewhere.