Over the course of our lifetimes, the personal computer, the internet, and the smartphone have dramatically increased our ability to access all kinds of information. It is great irony, however, that this revolution in technology has – in some ways – foreclosed rather than increased our willingness and ability to communicate with each another.
Yes, we Facebook and tweet. In fact, we’re in daily – sometime hourly – communications with our friends. That’s the problem, however. Increasingly, we’re communicating exclusively with our friends and people who look, act, and think just like us. Our communications are more frequent, but the types of individuals with whom we communicate may actually be shrinking. We are withdrawing into our own self-selected “communications silos.” We see this, for instance, in the unwillingness of our representatives in state and local government to talk across party lines. And with respect to the media, some of us are Fox people and some of us favor MSNBC. Rarely, however, do we ever need to expose ourselves to anyone who thinks differently than we do.
At one time, exposure to people drawn from different backgrounds was touted as a great benefit of attending college. Sadly, this is becoming less and less so. As a result of changes in affirmative action guidelines, America’s campuses are less diverse today than they were 30 years ago. And as regional campuses are becoming more exclusive, students from urban communities are being squeezed out of the classroom. Even in colleges and universities that are ostensibly diverse, white students tend to congregate with white students, African-American students with African-American students, and Hispanic students with Hispanic students. As a result, they’re not benefiting in any substantial way from the little diversity their schools provide.
I’m proud to say that Calumet College of St. Joseph has worked intentionally to fight this alarming trend. In terms of race and ethnicity, we remain the most diverse four-year institution of higher learning in the Midwest.
Some 42 percent of our graduates this year are White, 30.6 percent African-American, and 25.6 percent Hispanic. Additionally, we are still Indiana’s only federally-designated “Hispanic Serving Institution of Higher Learning.”
Other kinds of diversity have increased at Calumet College of St. Joseph as well. Yes, we still focus on at-risk and underprepared students drawn from the urban communities that surround us. That will never change. It is a part of our mission. Our honors cohort has grown each of the last three years as well, however. And this year, we enrolled 23 international students. Next year, this number is expected to grow to 40. Each of these developments has greatly enriched the educational experience we provide for all of our students.
More importantly, perhaps, our students from different backgrounds interact, not just superficially, but at deeper levels as well. This is due in part to our athletics programs. Many of our students are teammates as well as classmates. Additionally, our freshmen take courses in cohorts. This means that they have more opportunities – opportunities that are intentionally created – to interact than the typical college student.
I hope that our efforts in this regard are a source of pride for you as well. Yes, we’re bucking a trend that is becoming increasingly evident in our country. Instead of congregating in silos, we’re opening our doors to the widest possible variety of students. In this respect, it is no different today than when you attended Calumet College of St. Joseph in the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s, the ‘90s, or in the last two decades. This continues to be good for our students and for the communities in which they will live and work as well.
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Amy McCormack, Ph.D.
Calumet College of St. Joseph
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