Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have been a major focus of colleges and universities across the country for several decades, but creating an environment that reflects DEI can be challenging for higher education administrators. Many schools have created positions for diversity, equity, inclusion, engagement, and outreach to reflect the changing and diverse student body. According to Society for Health Psychology, DEI strategies can promote creative thinking, prepare students for future success and help to build a national community.

An online Master of Science (M.S.) in Higher Education Administration from Barry University can help graduates take on management roles in higher education and impact school and community relations by advancing workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion.

What Is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

Society for Health Psychology notes that diversity in higher education is about bringing in people of differing backgrounds — whether it be ethnicity, race, religion, gender identity, sexuality, class, political beliefs, disability, or age — together on campus. Diversity on college campuses is important because, for many students, it might be the first time they’re exposed to a significant number of people from different backgrounds and cultures. Additionally, when students recognize other students like them, they feel safer and are most successful.

Higher Education Today notes that equity in higher education is about ensuring that students receive what they need to be successful through fair and impartial treatment. It also means that students have opportunities to recognize and confront the limitations they experience. Equity in education tries to combat the issues that marginalized students face and ensure they have the support they need to succeed.

Inclusion in higher education is the process of improving the academic system to include and meet the diverse needs of the student body, especially those in marginalized groups. Inclusion ensures that students are valued, supported, and respected. Higher Education Today defines inclusion as “having a valued voice, seeing others like you represented around you and in the curriculum, and knowing that you belong and matter based on how you experience the environment and your interactions with others.”

How College Campuses Can Prioritize Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

DEI is not only important for students but also for faculty, staff, and members of the administration. Recruiting faculty from diverse backgrounds can be a means of support to students from underrepresented backgrounds and help them achieve goals and improve learning outcomes. Social interactions at school can help students prepare for real-world experiences with diverse groups of people in a work environment, personal relationships, and their communities.

The following are some issues that colleges and universities deal with, and ways institutions can prioritize and promote DEI on campus:

  • Achieving diversity in the student body. By addressing the lack of diversity within the student body, a college could examine its recruiting practices and focus on making them non-exclusionary. By ensuring its print and digital recruiting materials feature individuals of many ethnicities, races, and abilities, potential students can envision themselves and know they are welcome.
  • Including students with mobility issues. Some students with mobility issues — whether they experience physical disabilities or cannot commute — may not be able to regularly attend in-person classes. Making classes available online, recording lectures, and having information readily available in differing formats can expand the world of education to those who may otherwise be excluded.
  • Developing a safety net. Some students from marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds may experience significant economic insecurities. When schools implement DEI programs, students can receive assistance in navigating economic issues stemming from financial aid delay problems.
  • Promoting a diverse faculty. Hiring faculty members from various backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and gender identities can ensure a positive impact on students from underrepresented backgrounds. Professors who promote DEI can impact higher retention rates by supporting all students.

Colleges and universities can create programs to support first-generation college students; collaborate with community DEI organizations; establish DEI campus groups that include students, staff, faculty, and administrators; create scholarships to help disadvantaged students; and provide additional support to struggling students.

What’s Next

Students in an advanced education degree program will have the skills to help the institutions they work for set and reach DEI goals that impact student happiness and success. Barry University’s M.S. program has a handful of courses that prepare students for conversations in diversity, equity, and inclusion, including courses like Current Issues in Higher Education, Diversity and College Student Development, and Advancing Workplace Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

The process of improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education is unending. If you’re interested in understanding why a diverse student body is essential, and the role that higher education plays in society, Barry University’s online M.S. in Higher Education Administration may be right for you.

Learn more about Barry University’s online Master of Science in Higher Education Administration program.