Multicultural programs help promote inclusion
USC has been recognized for the second year in a row with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. It is the only school in South Carolina to receive the distinction.
The honor was given to 56 colleges and universities nationwide that “have exceptional strategies and programs to help them achieve diversity and inclusion across campus,” according to the magazine. That includes both the physical diversity of the campus as well as programs and services aimed to promote inclusion.
This is the second year the HEED awards have been given.
USC’s Chief Diversity Officer John Dozier said the university “does a lot to make sure that we are a very inclusive environment” and to “help students and faculty feel like they can be themselves.”
Students’ learning experience is enhanced, he said, when they find themselves in an environment among other students and faculty with backgrounds different than their own. That includes interacting with people from different racial, ethnic, economic, religious and sexual backgrounds.
“If you are in a situation where you are learning from or learning about something from someone who looks and thinks like you … can you say that you’ve really learned?” Dozier said. “Bringing difference in and continuing to improve the diversity of opinions and experience … will help us continue to be better.”
Lauren Harper, a second-year public relations student and Student Government’s secretary of multicultural affairs, said exposing students to a diverse range of people and ideas during college will better prepare them for their futures beyond campus.
“It’s just to be able to recognize differences among people and be exposed to different things, because once we get out into job markets, we’re going to go to different places. And not everywhere is like the South,” she said. “[We can] apply these characteristics and things we’ve learned to when we grow up and deal with people with different backgrounds.”
Dozier, who became the school’s first chief diversity officer in June, credits the inclusive environment on campus to the foundation of the Carolinian Creed.
“I think if I were to say that there’s something that really contributes to our ability to be successful, it’s the fact that we have something in place that really speaks to who we are as a university and the kind of culture we want to maintain,” he said. “It is such a strong reflection of who we are.”
Among the university’s programs and services that encourage diversity and inclusion are:
— The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, which houses organizations like Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Programs and promotes diversity education through events like the Association of African American Students’ Cultural Awareness Week.
— The Opportunity Scholars Program, which supports low-income, first-generation college students in their first year at the university.
— The African American Professors Program, which attracts and prepares African-American students aspiring to be professors.
Programs like these encourage students and faculty to embrace their differences and promote inclusion of one another, Dozier said.
“We bring our differences to the University of South Carolina not to suspend those differences and those opinions, but we bring them so we can learn from one another while respecting each other in that learning process,” Dozier said.
Being recognized with the HEED award, Harper said, shows that USC is setting an example of diversity in a region “that’s not exactly known for its multiculturalism and open-mindedness.”
“I think it’s awesome that we as a university are doing a good job of defying the stereotypes of our region by making it well known that, yeah, we’re in the South, but we’re a very diverse and inclusive environment,” Harper said. “Students who are from the North or the West or different countries can feel comfortable coming here.”