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The Role of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education

Updated: Sep 19, 2018

What if any role does the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion play in the missions of public higher education institutions?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical to the broader educational mission of public institutions. Public institutions' missions involve providing educational opportunities to the public so that they gain greater meaning or learn to think critically about world issues and gain skills in collaborative and creative problem-solving. Additionally, public institutions must work toward social justice, equal access, and equity.

The plethora of benefits of higher education is well documented in the literature. Higher education attainment elevates the social mobility and career pathways for graduates. Research shows that a college degree provides for a higher socioeconomic status and higher income levels. Nationally, there are disparities among underrepresented individuals who obtain higher education degrees, which result in deficits in employment, earnings, health, life expectancy, and other outcomes. Higher education is crucial for individual outcomes and outcomes for society.

Equity, diversity, and inclusion practices foster public institutional missions through social justice and civic engagement. Moreover, best practices connect diversity, equity, and inclusion to the mission of institutions like universities. Best practices require continuous efforts to review the curricula, pedagogy, policies, infrastructure, and structural diversity of the faculty, students, staff, leadership, and alumni and to leverage the diversity into the entire framework of the institution and the surrounding community.

The research on the educational benefits of diversity and inclusion provides additional evidence that diversity and inclusion have tangible and meaningful outcomes. Diversity and inclusion are imperative to a global, multicultural, and pluralistic society that produces informed societal leaders who are socially aware of the complex issues of traditionally marginalized and underrepresented groups and structural inequities. Access to education for students from different backgrounds, including all dimensions of diversity, increases the ability of individuals from different backgrounds to live and work together.

A faculty with a firm commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion tend to make curricular decisions and develop teaching practices that include underrepresented groups' experiences and intentionally seek interactions with students, faculty, and staff with diverse backgrounds. These practices contribute to the retention of students, faculty, staff as well as it increases the institution's ability to create and maintain inclusive climates. Moreover, leadership can strategically drive these outcomes.

Ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion to drive the mission of Universities will not only improve individual outcomes but will create an educated public of leaders poised to support social justice and inclusive practices.

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