Embracing diversity and multiculturalism seem to be two huge persuaders for college and universities who want to attract Gen Y students. They have established programs for recruiting both internationally and intranationally, and it is not uncommon to see a school boast of their student population representing “40 states and 37 countries around the globe.” Was college always like this? A mashup (I love GLEE) of cultures, perspectives and influences from around the world, or is this a recent transition? And with our generation being the most “liberal” generation ever, is this academia’s way of catering to our demands and desires, or are we merely the beneficiaries of decades of transitions towards this end? Which came first, GenY or collegiate diversity?
If we look back at the generations before us, race and ethnicity were major issues in American life and in college life. The assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are still fresh in their minds. We see those worries resonating in power issues of today like homeland security and the apprehension/excitement over having a black president. We have grown up with “common sense” ideas that were new ways of thinking not too long ago. It’s only 2010, after all.
Recently the Pew Research Center showed that the Millennial generation is the most ethnically diverse generation of Americans ever, with 61% White, 19% Hispanic, 13% Black, 4% Asian and 2% other. Although these numbers are not mirrored in all colleges and universities, they do provide for a wider, more ethnically oriented pool of individuals from which colleges may choose. So naturally schools are accepting students who meet their criteria, from all ethnicities and races, because that’s who is available.
All colleges want to bring in students that will add to the success of the overall school. Programming and courses of study are also being adjusted to fit the needs of this more diverse population of students. My school recently added courses in International Business, Mandarin, and Japanese as well as a special topics Prison Management program for Saudi Arabian professionals.
Colleges have always been centers for progressive thinking. As our generation moves on in our education and enters the professional world, having experience with as many different kinds of people as possible will only helps us navigate the “real world” easier, which is what a college education is supposed to do in the first place. But we are not being catered to. The universities of today are taking the ideas of yesterday and hoping to shape us students, so that we can in turn build a better tomorrow.
What do you think? Which came first, GenY or collegiate diversity?