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Some Notes on Diversity and Opportunity

By: David Brakke, Dean, College of Science and Mathematics, James Madison University

I will close my comments on the AAC&U Annual Meeting with a brief note on diversity.

A thread through the meeting was a sense of the broad dimensions of diversity and the many different points of entry for our students and faculty. Opening doors and creating broader sets of opportunities, nurturing a wide range of voices—these can only benefit our democracy. In addition, diverse teams often outperform those constrained by fewer perspectives and voices. As such, creating diverse groups of people with varying skills and perspectives can be an opportunity to generate better results for a group. We may feel creating a diverse community is the right thing to do or a responsible thing to do, but it is also a smart thing to do when it comes to building teams and fostering collaboration and innovation. We saw at the conference a number of examples of projects looking at ways to improve the persistence and performance of various segments of our student and faculty population. I hope these examples continue to appear, and that we can assemble a comprehensive set of recommendations for how to improve what we do across our wide range of institutions.  We can all learn from others and adapt best practices to each of our university’s cultures and core values in ways that create more opportunities and lead to better learning outcomes for our students.