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Diversity

California Gov. Jerry Brown, with students and teachers behind him, gestures during a news conference after voting Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in Oakland, Calif. The governor talked about his support for Proposition 30  that will increase funding for schools and public safety.

While voters across the nation were glued to their screens on election night counting electoral votes, the higher education community was holding its collective breath awaiting the answers on a number of important ballot initiatives, proving this year’s election was truly about more than blue and red for higher ed.

As the Supreme Court revisits the idea of affirmative action in college admissions, new reports have been released looking at the success of Hispanic students in higher education.

“Advancing to Completion: Increasing degree attainment by improving graduation rates and closing gaps for Hispanic students,” a report from The Education Trust, shows improvements in six-year graduation rates for students at studied schools. Another report looks at success of African American students and updates previous briefs on these populations.

We all want to be winners. That trait is truly universal. But as U.S. higher education increasingly recruits students across international lines, how do we overcome challenges of language, culture, and academic preparedness to ensure that, while some win, others do not lose?

This question reflects one theme of the British Council’s sixth annual Going Global conference, which I attended in London in March. With 1,500 people from 80 countries, it explored how education can change the world’s future by shaping and connecting its citizens’ lives.

There are more out lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) college students today than there have been at any other time in the history of higher education. In decades past, many young LGBT people experienced their coming out processes in college, yet today’s rising college freshmen have increasingly become more out and more vocal in high school and even in middle school.

E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. In 1776, Pierre Eugene du Simitiere proposed this motto to the government committee tasked with developing a seal for the young nation. The phrase was adopted for the newly created national emblem of the United States and still appears today as a guiding principle on the nation’s seal. In 2012, the expression persists on official documents such as passports, and is ever present on the seals of the President and Vice President of the United States, the U.S. Congress, the House of Representatives, and the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The idea that faculty members are uniquely qualified to determine the direction, standards, and practices of the institutions at which they teach and do research has been a tenet in higher education. At many colleges and universities, the faculty has almost sole responsibility for hiring, promoting, and granting tenure to its own.

Preparing students to work in a global economy is no small feat, but it is a skill employers are requesting. According to "Raising the Bar," a 2009 survey released by the American Association of Colleges and Universities, 67 percent of employers believe colleges should place an emphasis on providing students "the ability to understand the global context of situations and decisions," and 57 percent want students to have a better understanding of cultural diversity.

Election years always tend to revive the debate surrounding immigration policy. What is often forgotten is that many people with a foreign accent arrived here through proper channels. Community colleges are working to help integrate them in their new homes.

"Everyone has heard of the immigrant doctor who is driving a taxi," says Teresita Wisell, associate dean of the Gateway Center at Westchester Community College (N.Y.). "We want to help them navigate the process to help them use their education."

In 2006, Northeastern University enrolled students from 42 countries, representing 4 percent of the freshman class. By 2009, the university had increased those numbers to 61 countries and 11 percent, along the way adding 932 new high schools sending students to Boston.

Year-end statements for pensions, 403(b) accounts, and mutual funds aren't as frightening to open as they were this time last year. University endowment managers usually wait until their fiscal year ends in June before they really look at their statements, but interim surveys indicate that performance has improved.

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