In an age where the whole world is connected, the topic of diversity feels like old news. Some challenge the need for diversity with rising immigrant and international student enrollment numbers. They might mention how many people of other races and ethnicities work in major industries like tech. While these are all good signs of diversity, we must not be complacent and think that our job is done. There is still so much to do to truly improve cultural diversity in institutions around the world.
Proof of why we need more diversity lies in the fact that racism and discrimination are still so prevalent in the world. These issues were exacerbated with the coronavirus pandemic, focusing the lens on xenophobia and prejudice against the Asian community. It is only with true diversity that we can eradicate the wrong mentality and promote a culture of acceptance, kindness, and working together towards the common good.
Does diversity even matter? Even in nature, we can see the importance of diversity: diseases are less prevalent among plants and animals with a high level of variety. Inbreeding in both humans and animals results in poor health, higher mortality, and the passing down of genetic disorders. The whole ecosystem benefits from a variety of organisms all working together to prosper and thrive.
Cultural diversity works the same way for humans. When we are exposed to people of different cultures, backgrounds, and faiths, we open our minds and horizons, ending up with stronger communities. When students get to interact with other students who are different from them, they learn early on how to see new perspectives and worldviews. It is not enough for students to merely be exposed to and tolerant of other cultures. They have to cultivate acknowledgement and respect for different cultures, value what these cultures have to offer, and encourage other cultures to speak up. Students must also learn to empower others and celebrate differences rather than just tolerate them. This is how we cultivate a world that is truly connected with each other.
Institutions are responsible for building more diverse communities on their campuses. One of the ways they can do this is by improving their scholarship offers. International students look for scholarships to help them get to the university or program of their choice. When more institutions offer real scholarships, they can gain access to more international students who otherwise could not enrol in their schools.
Scholarships not only offer financial aid or discounts for eligible students. They should also provide unique opportunities for the deserving scholars who worked very hard to fit the stringent requirements. Many scholarships offer mentorship programs, internships, and networking for their scholarship recipients. Because scholars usually do not have the privileges, luxuries, and opportunities that other students have, it is up to the institution to ensure that they get a fair shot at succeeding.
Scholarships and cultural diversity go hand in hand. Institutions should take care not to make their scholars feel like charity cases. They should instead use scholarships to cultivate a culture of helping others, especially those who are less fortunate and in need. Institutions must promote to their students the desire to create opportunities for others to feel empowered and capable.
This is a big step in building true diversity on campus. It may take years, if not decades, for us to see the effects of our actions. But if we do not act now, our future generations will suffer. It is up to us to do the most we can to encourage more diversity. Especially with the current technological tools we have at hand, it is not impossible. It might be difficult, but we are up for the challenge! Does your institution promote true cultural diversity?