College is a time of self-exploration and expression. It’s when students discover who they are and what they value; every student’s perspective is different. Fostering an inclusive college environment can play a significant role in helping students feel accepted and respected for the unique individuals they are.
As a leader in student-centric health insurance plans, Wellfleet is passionate about helping every student feel their best. We’ve helped clients nationwide incorporate more inclusivity into their health insurance offerings.
In this blog, we’ll show you how to promote diversity and inclusion in college. Continue reading for 11 ways to strengthen diversity on college campuses and help all students feel welcome.
1. Educate yourself and others
The first way to help your campus become a beacon of diversity is to educate yourself, other administrators, professors, and students. Education is the foundation of change.
Here are a few ways to educate yourself and others on campus about diversity:
- Read books like Inclusion by Perrine Farque or others on her top 10 list
- Follow leaders in the field of DEI, like Wanda Hope
- Listen to podcasts like these recommended by Forbes
- Pay attention to what other campuses are doing, like the Spectrum Center at the University of Michigan
Most importantly, focus on learning from others. Go in with a humble attitude and a desire to learn, and you will develop skills to serve your students better and help diversity thrive on campus.
Learn more about why diversity on college campuses is important.
2. Listen to your students’ needs
Your students have unique needs and desires, and understanding these will help you serve them.
Students need to feel that they belong and are accepted for who they are. Doing this effectively will require you to understand your students on a personalized level and involve them in the DEI process, which you can do through:
- Meeting with students individually to hear their stories
- Forming a student diversity affairs council where administrators can gain student feedback1
- Reading student-run publications like the campus newspaper
- Take periodic surveys for students to measure the campus’ strengths and weaknesses
Remember that your students are the ultimate gauge of the success of your diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. If your students don’t feel like they belong and are accepted for who they are, it’s the school’s responsibility to make changes to improve the campus environment.
3. Have zero tolerance for discrimination
If you want your campus to be a safe place for people of all races, ethnicities, religions, cultures, gender identities, and abilities, school administrators need to stand up against discrimination.
First, school administrators need to know when discrimination occurs, so give your students and faculty an easy and anonymous way to report discrimination.
Then, once the administration receives reports of discrimination, it’s their job to investigate the incident, hold the offender(s) responsible, and enact appropriate repercussions for this behavior. Be prepared to take disciplinary action as appropriate to ensure discrimination doesn’t stand on your campus.
When you hold a no-tolerance policy for discrimination, students will trust that you’re standing up for their fair treatment.
4. Encourage diverse campus organizations
Another way to improve diversity on college campuses is to provide support and funding for student-led groups and organizations. Developing a sense of community is a major component of helping students feel that they belong. When students have a group of peers they can relate to and share experiences with, they feel more at home on campus.2
Provide support for a variety of student organizations, such as:
- Cultural groups
- Theatre and arts groups
- LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups
- Academic and career interest groups
- Intramural athletic groups
- Religious groups
- Hobby and interest clubs
5. Host inclusive events
Another way to promote diversity and inclusion in college is to host inclusive events. This helps show your students that you welcome all backgrounds and that all students belong.
A few types of events you may consider bringing to campus include:
- Multicultural fair
- Holi festival of color
- Non-religious winter celebration
- Juneteenth celebration
- Pride parade
- Day of the Dead celebration
6. Gain faculty support
Student interactions with school faculty affect how students perceive their experiences on campus. Students will feel a greater sense of belonging if your college’s professors and staff are welcoming and kind to all students. Additionally, when students see diversity also represented within the faculty, they in turn feel more academic validation.1
You can help improve faculty support for diversity in college by:
- Vetting prospective faculty for their commitment to DEI
- Hosting faculty work groups where they can collaborate on DEI initiatives
- Providing faculty education on how to support a diverse student body
7. Create safe spaces for all students
Along with feeling welcomed by those on campus, students also need space to unwind, rest, and recharge alone or with others. In your pursuit of enhancing college diversity, provide private spaces in each building where students can refill their mental and emotional cups. Research has shown that having safe spaces that reflect students’ cultures can help students feel less isolated and provide a sense of validation.1
Safe spaces may include:
- Rest and meditation rooms
- Chapels and religious spaces
- Counseling offices
- Study rooms
- Yoga and workout gyms
- Parks and outdoor spaces
8. Show kindness
As a leader on your campus, you are an example of how to treat others. When students and faculty see you treat others with kindness, respect, and understanding, they will follow suit. Campus culture is modeled from the top. If you want your students and faculty to display respect and kindness toward each other, that behavior begins with you.
So, whether you are talking with a peer, student, or community member, be a model for others so they’re inspired to follow suit.
9. Use inclusive language
One great way to make all students feel welcome on campus is to use language that includes and respects everyone’s values. Inclusive language attempts to erase discrimination and bias while affirming all people’s values.
For a complete guide to using inclusive language, visit the American Psychological Association’s inclusive language guidelines.
10. Invite students to tell their story
If you want students of all backgrounds to feel comfortable on your campus, fostering an open environment where your students can share their unique experiences is important.
Create opportunities for students to tell peers, faculty, and administration about their beliefs, backgrounds, histories, and experiences. And remember to validate and support everyone’s unique story.
Learn about how Wellfleet helps our student members access quality gender-affirming care.
Open dialogue makes current students feel more welcome and helps prospective students feel more confident about attending your school.
11. Expand funding for DEI initiatives
One aspect of showing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus is ensuring your institution provides funds to aid these initiatives. Whether that means increasing the budget to build a multicultural center or providing funds for a student pride club, students will appreciate the school’s support of these important activities.
Learn more about Wellfleet
Visit WellfleetStudent.com to learn more about our inclusive student health plans that are built for you.
1 U.S. Department of Education. (2016, November). Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education. Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/advancing-diversity-inclusion.pdf.
2 Pedler, ML; Willis, R; Nieuwoudt, JE. (2022) A Sense of Belonging at University: Student Retention, Motivation and Enjoyment. Journal of Further and Higher Education. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1340558.
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