The most recent U.S. census report projects that by 2050 nearly 60 percent of the U.S. population will be from diverse backgrounds. With people of color making up 15 percent of St. Thomas undergraduates and 19 percent of the graduate student population, are we prepared for this dramatic shift in demographics?
As we prepare for the future, we know a sea change is approaching in our cultural landscape. But there are great advantages to welcoming more diversity into our community. Studies have shown diversity can not only broaden our understanding of others, but it also can make us appreciate others by seeing them through the lens of ingenuity, creativity and innovation.
As a community, we stand poised to welcome all students who enter ready to learn and thrive at St. Thomas. And we are committed to preparing all students to work across cultural differences in order to excel in an increasingly diverse and globalized world.
Diversity and inclusion are foundational tenets of our mission, values and convictions. It is our daily challenge to move beyond mere words on paper and take action as we breathe life into our social justice mission. At St. Thomas, we must foster a rich multicultural learning community, build an inclusive culture, advance the common good, and train the next generation of leaders and change agents.
For more than a year, the Embracing our Differences as One Human Family strategic task force has been working to develop and foster new diversity and inclusion efforts on campus. The work of the task force, co-chaired by Rob Riley and me, has been to integrate critical elements of the university’s strategic priorities and core themes: Excellence in Learning and Student Engagement, Education Informed by Catholic Mission, Globalization and One University.
Our task force is focused on three key areas for strategic change and continued improvement:
Education: We are expanding training opportunities in all areas of diversity for students, faculty and staff. Further, we are developing strategies to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups participating in undergraduate and graduate research. Our task force also envisions creating a nationally recognized center for diversity and interdisciplinary studies.
Recruitment and retention: We are committed to ensuring our community reflects the great diversity of God’s creation. Our task force is developing a plan for expanding our outreach opportunities through targeted efforts to recruit diverse populations.
Community engagement: The Office for Diversity and Inclusion, the Luann Dummer Center for Women, Student Diversity and Inclusion Services, and Center for Global and Local Engagement are partnering to create opportunities for students, faculty, staff and community members to become informed and engaged about diversity and inclusion. This year, we have hosted guest lecturers, including Dr. Josie Johnson (Minnesota civil rights pioneer), Roshini Rajkumar (WCCO Radio personality) and Jeff Hobbs (author of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace).
Finally, we all will play an invaluable role in strengthening the St. Thomas community as we continue to embrace the principles of diversity, community and inclusion. Together, we will build a more just and inclusive campus, community and world.
I look forward to seeing you at upcoming diversity and inclusion events. Please visit stthomas.edu/studentdiversity for more information.
Tyner recently was named the associate vice president for diversity and inclusion at St. Thomas.
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