Poll finds diversity in education a priority

A majority of Americans said diversity in higher education is more important than ever before, but many said the nation is not doing enough to meet the challenges that lie ahead, according to a first-ever nationwide poll on diversity sponsored by the Ford Foundation.

“The main issue is for GW students to interact with each other,” said Judith Green, director of GW’s International Services Office. “If GW students want to be prepared for the next century, they have to make the effort.”

According to the recent poll, 97 percent of those surveyed said “in the next generation, people will need to get along with people who are not like them.”

Ninety-four percent said the “nation’s growing diversity makes it more important than ever for all of us to understand people who are different than ourselves,” according to the poll.

The telephone survey polled 2,011 registered voters from July 14 to Aug. 4 as part of the Campus Diversity Initiative, a series of grants and programs created to study diversity in higher education.

Sammie Robinson, associate director for off-campus recruitment, said GW actively seeks and recruits minorities from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“We are attracting multicultural students and students of color,” Robinson said.

Six hundred and five of the 6,144 GW undergraduates last year were classified as international and 2,104 students come from non-Caucasian backgrounds, according to the GW undergraduate admissions Web site.

The admissions office has improved its minority recruitment, but Robinson said he sees room for improvement. He said competition is fierce among colleges for minority students, and GW must continue enhancing its recruiting efforts.

Only 22 percent of the people surveyed said “the nation is doing a good job of preparing itself to meet the challenges that lie ahead,” according to a CDI press release.

But Melvin Brock, assistant director of the Multicultural Student Services Center, said GW’s diversity efforts have been largely successful. The improvement of multicultural relations on campus, however, must continually be improved through programs promoting awareness of minority issues, he said.

MSSC provides multicultural awareness programs in addition to academic and emotional support for minority students at GW, Brock said.

“(The Multicultural Student Services Center’s) operation is a crucial part of the formula in terms of us being successful,” Robinson said.

One of the new features at MSSC is the use of program assistants, upperclassmen from multicultural backgrounds who offer peer counseling and advice to new students.

The Diversity Program Clearinghouse, which provides organizational and monetary support for multicultural events on campus, also is sponsored by MSSC.

Two-thirds of those polled in the survey said colleges and universities should take steps to ensure diversity among their student bodies and 75 percent support steps to ensure diversity among faculty.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said every college student should have to study different cultures in order to graduate.

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