Diversity and Inclusion: The Future of the University

Although some may view it as simply Affirmative Action or attempts to keep up with political correctness, diversity and inclusion are extremely important concepts to keep in the future of higher education. As an underrepresented minority female scientist familiar with deep Southwest Virginia, the concept of being the only person of a particular identity or background is not foreign to me. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to grow up in an area dense with cultural diversity and pretty open to inclusion. However, after living in areas that are nearly polar opposites to my home, I can fully understand how damaging places that don’t value diversity and inclusion can be.

For universities to truly provide service everyone in their communities, they must continue to value diverse and inclusive environments. Not only to welcome more diverse and included students, but to encourage and teach others how to work and contribute to our increasingly diverse and inclusive world. Although many people are learning how to coexist with our different backgrounds and identities, I would like to highlight and reiterate how environments devoid of diversity and inclusion can feel. The two most prominent feelings I will discuss are isolation and exclusion.

Isolation

Next time you are in a room full of people, take a look around. How many people have the same skin color? How many people have the same gender? How many people share your same identities? Although these things may seem superficial, they can hold a powerful bearing over an individual’s comfort level and feeling of belonging. For some, these differences don’t mean much, but for others it can lead to an immense feeling of isolation; a feeling that there is no one in the room/department/campus you can relate to. This feeling is usually silent and easy to dismiss from an external perspective, but it is so important to preventing the next feeling: exclusion.

Exclusion

Feeling like you don’t belong can often lead to the feeling that you don’t deserve to belong. Many people (usually graduate students) experience impostor’s syndrome at least once in their higher educational career. This syndrome can be amplified by this feeling of exclusion especially for students from underrepresented identities and backgrounds. The feeling that a particular place is not for you because no one else like you has thrived there (to your knowledge). Exclusion can make underrepresented individuals feel like continuing in a particular environment is a daunting task. Instead of focusing on bettering themselves and improving one’s education, the feeling of exclusion can hinder progress and lead to quitting continued education altogether.

These feelings can be so discouraging to students in higher education and I feel that it is extremely important that institutions value diversity and inclusion. For higher education institutes to truly educate all masses, they must foster environments that feel welcoming and open to everyone.


Math pun: Why was the function so bent out of shape? Its regression model was too tight a fit.

(Today’s Math pun brought to you by statistics and modeling)

How Technology Can Fill Gaps in Higher Education

Living through the turn of the 21st century has been an amazing experience mainly because of the technological revolution. We got to watch our world go from (relatively) limited technological usage and capability to  a near societal dependence on it. Despite some of the negative outcomes from this revolution, such as issues with privacy and a new front for crime to take place (e.g. the dark web, new methods for identity theft, etc.), there are many ways that technology has filled gaps that were previously much more difficult to fill.

Take for instance, higher education, and education in general. Many institutions, mostly in rural areas, struggle to receive and maintain the resources to keep up with the advances in educational tools available to more affluent and populated institutions. Fortunately, the technological revolution has made more and better educational tools widely available. The biggest contributor to filling this gap is the Internet and free applications. While, of course, getting access to Internet and affording the technology to use new educational tools can still be a challenge, it is certainly isn’t as tasking of a challenge as it used to be. Once institutions have access to Internet (and the devices required to access it), the educational tools that are available become nearly endless.

Now, this is not to say that Internet and technology solves all problems present in lowly resourced institutions. There are still the costs of device acquisition, Internet services, increased electricity usage, and maintenance. However, costs can be easily cut by buying refurbished or less cutting-edge and/or used devices that still have Internet capabilities as well as limiting available maintenance for said devices. Lowly resourced institutions that are capable of managing that are able to effectively provide educational tools and resources that weren’t possible before the technological revolution at nearly the same quality as more highly resourced institutions.