IMaGinEing diversity at Quinnipiac

By on March 27, 2012

Last Thursday, Quinnipiac released its IMaGinE (Inclusiveness, Multiculturalism and Globalism in Education) Strategic Plan Draft which is designed to expose students to a greater sense of diversity while enabling them to graduate as open-minded, global citizens.

The proposal was written by the IMaGinE Student Advisory Group in conjunction with the IMaGinE Advisory Board, comprised of self-selected members of the faculty and one graduate student. Chief Diversity Officer Diane Ariza chairs the board along with co-chairs, Professor Dwayne Boucaud and Professor Maureen Helgren.

Ariza spearheaded the initiative to create IMaGinE in 2010 and began to recruit members from the Quinnipiac community to form a Diversity Student Task Force and a Faculty Task Force. These groups created and drafted what is now the IMaGinE Strategic Plan.

“We are in the business of preparing students to be multicultural learners and practitioners,” Ariza said. “The IMaGinE Plan is really about encouraging everyone to take that initiative and take that on as part of their learning.”

Sophomore Tavish Fitzpatrick, a member of the Student Advisory Group, said that the IMaGinE Strategic Plan would allow students at Quinnipiac to learn about diverse backgrounds and increase the overall level of cultural awareness on campus.

“Having students who can be understanding and considerate of the many kinds of forms of identity and interaction among people would be so beneficial,” Fitzpatrick said. “Quinnipiac can be so much more diversified and innovative than it is now.”

He also noted that developing a school community in which all members were considerate of and knowledgeable about all forms of diversity and identity would be beneficial to the academic environment at Quinnipiac.

The main purpose of the ImaGinE Plan is to provide students at Quinnipiac with greater exposure to multiculturalism, and more preparation to enter the global workforce.

The plan is framed to highlight three overarching goals, delineated by the categories campus climate, accountability, and growth and sustainability. A detailed description of the objectives and tasks intended to achieve the goal associated with each of these three categories is provided in a separate document.

Ariza emphasized inclusiveness as one of the most important themes of IMaGinE. The plan is aimed at every single individual on campus, as diversity is all-inclusive and applies to everyone.

She also stressed that as a culture, both inside the “Quinnipiac bubble” and beyond, we need to deconstruct the way we think about diversity. Contrary to popular belief, diversity does not only apply to ethnicity and race. Socioeconomic class, gender, religion and a multitude of other categories also constitute diversity. In that sense, Quinnipiac is more diverse than most people believe it to be.

But there is acknowledgement that the stereotype of Quinnipiac as a homogeneous population is not entirely inaccurate. If implemented successfully, dispelling the sense of a homogeneous student body could be one of the positive results of the IMaGinE Plan.

“I feel we are all capable of keeping up with the stereotype or changing it,” Fitzpatrick said.

Learning about inclusiveness, globalism and multiculturalism does not necessitate that the student population be extraordinarily diverse. Ariza admits that the best way to infuse diversity into a campus is to have more people of different backgrounds, but points out that this is only half the battle.

“You have to get kids out of their comfort zone. You need both,” Ariza said. “The numbers are important, but changing cultural patterns of the school is also vital.”

The Admissions Office has worked hard on its own initiative to attract more international students to the school. They have achieved significant success, dramatically raising numbers of international students at Quinnipiac in just a few years, according to Kristin Helms, Program Coordinator for the IMaGinE plan.

“A successful implementation of the IMaGinE plan will benefit every member of the Quinnipiac University community,” said Mark Thompson, senior vice president for academic and student affairs. “As important as it is for our graduates to master discipline-specific knowledge associated with a chosen particular career path, this is no longer enough. With increasing global interdependency, graduates need to demonstrate social intelligence, critical thinking and diversity awareness and sensitivity to engage as innovative global citizens and leaders.”

Thompson said that his expectation and hope is that “students, faculty and staff will continue to demonstrate a strong commitment to campus and student success by making the IMaGinE plan a true community effort.”

The IMaGinE Student Advisory Group is imploring all members of the Quinnipiac community, to review the draft of its plan and to give any and all feedback.

At the end of the spring semester, the IMaGinE Advisory Board will evaluate the feedback from the community and revise the plan to reflect this feedback. The final draft will be released in Fall 2012.

“Every member of the Quinnipiac University community has an important role to play as the campus undertakes this important endeavor,” said a QU press release published on March 22. “Working together, the administrators, faculty, staff and students can establish an inclusive, global and multicultural learning environment in which all are accountable for advancing diversity as a core value. That can only make for a better college experience for everyone.”

You can see the plan and take a survey here.

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