Graduates should possess the attitudes, beliefs, values, and self-awareness necessary to serve students who are culturally different from themselves. Specifically, students should be able to demonstrate:
- that they have carefully examined and, when necessary, challenged their own values, world view, assumptions, and biases.
- that they possess specific knowledge about how gender, class, race and ethnicity, language, nationality, sexual orientation, age, religion or spirituality, disability, ability, and institutional power affect individuals and their experiences.
- that they have the ability to effectively challenge and support individuals and systems around diversity issues.
A Look at Inner City High School Students and Their Perspectives on College
During the class, The Role of Diversity in Student Affairs Practice, I created a proposal for self-research on minority high school students in inner city schools and their perspective on higher education. My rationale for this audience at the time was to educate myself prior to traveling to inner city schools for my job as an admission counselor. By reading journal articles, interviewing high school and college students that came from these areas and by putting myself in these environments, I was able to walk away with a lot of useful information that assisted me in understanding the thoughts of these students. While not all minorities, low-income or first generation students are inner-city students, a majority of inner-city students fit this profile and many of them have different lives than what I am educated on. For example, in my research, Dennis et al. states that minority students may have other family obligations that could interfere with applying to college or their college experience (2005). Understanding this when talking to these students makes me appear more relatable to the students, which then can make a conversation more approachable.
After working with these students in an environment I was familiar with, I felt more confident and prepared to present to similar populations in their own inner city setting. Following this paper, I spent the fall months traveling to a number of inner city schools. These students are now my favorite groups to meet with as many are searching for a new beginning in college. I am able to easily relate to them for the most part and I constantly look forward to my school visits with them.
Evaluating College Applications and Understanding College Choice
When evaluating college applications, I am sensitive with various forms of diversity that may or may not be plainly stated. For example, I must be aware that different high schools have access to different resources and not all students have the same amount of access to college preparation resources (Bergerson, 2009). I also cannot compare two students side by side with two different socioeconomic backgrounds as low-income students typically have less access to college resources information (Perna and Titus, 2005; Hao and Bonstead-Bruns, 1998). At the same time, we must also be fair with all applicants in gaining access to our institution. Being able to balance all of these factors can be a challenge, however, by working with my colleagues and speaking with high school counselors to better understand the culture of their students, I am confident in the decisions I am able to make. The topic of college choice became my research focus for several projects. My most recent paper was recently written for the course, Today’s College Student.
In a group project, a classism workshop was developed to educate participants on the issues related with classism, how to begin a discussion about classism on campus and how to relate to first generations students from low-income families. A video, case study and classroom activity were also presented. This is an important topic to educate student affairs staff and faculty about as class remains largely invisible on college campuses, as many institutions do not include class in their campus dialogues, diversity trainings, or curricular offerings, which leads to confusion and misinformation. Students who come from low socioeconomic families are not only less likely to start at a four-year institution, but if they enroll at a four-year institution, they are less likely to persist, continue their education at one institution and are more likely to take time off from college (Goldrick-Rab, 2006).