“Diversity is our strength” is a core Beach value. We not only talk about and study it, we live it.
We are home to people of every ethnicity, ability, age, background, religion, veteran status, political viewpoint, and sexual orientation and identity. In and out of the classrooms, our aspiration is to be a respectful environment that welcomes robust conversations and debates about differences and similarities in viewpoints and life experiences.
Matters of diversity and inclusion are sometimes seen as red lines in the cultural-political sand. For some, these concepts are viewed as symptoms of political correctness or giving some groups unfair advantages or making allowances for perceived shortcomings. For others, diversity and inclusivity are rallying concepts for a movement to cure social ills.
On our campus, they are neither.
At The Beach, diversity and inclusivity mean that our campus reflects the communities we serve and that all groups have “seats at the table.” It also means that all voices are invited to influence important university decisions.
There was a time when our faculty, staff and student body were fairly homogenous. Today, however, I am proud to say our community more closely resembles our state’s population than at any time in our 70-year history. This means we are helping to fulfill the hopes of all Californians, who are willing to put in the work, to have an amazing educational experience, regardless of their resources or background. High educational attainment means more wealth and civic engagement, less crime, and better health for all of California. The community wins when all sectors of society have an equitable chance at earning a university degree or a post-secondary certification in a skilled trade.
The workforce of tomorrow will be increasingly diverse, and must be more inclusive and globally connected if California wishes to maintain its position as the globe’s fifth largest economy. For the State of California to succeed, at least one million more BA level graduates must enter the economy by 2030. To make that happen, 18-24 year-olds and older students from every ethnic and economic group must find a path toward a degree. CSULB is regularly ranked as one of the best universities in the nation in promoting social mobility. We’re proud of that!
Our efforts to offer diverse, inclusive and excellent opportunities for students provide graduates with a distinct advantage. Diversity and inclusion promote collaboration, innovation and competitiveness — key skills in a world where communication, finances, jobs and technologies often know no boundaries. Through our years of experience, we have learned what numerous Fortune 500 companies have found: Namely, diversity and inclusivity are competitive differentiators, which is good for their bottom lines and for our communities.
According to the American Council on Education, “Education within a diverse setting prepares students to become good citizens in an increasingly complex, pluralistic society; it fosters mutual respect and teamwork; and it helps build communities whose members are judged by the quality of their character and their contributions.”
Our curriculum, along with other campus programs and activities, are nothing short of an investment in the well-being of our state and nation. With a strong focus on diversity and inclusivity, we enrich the workforce, open new doors for alumni (and increase the value of their degrees), create more scholarly opportunities for faculty and students, and build a more cooperative and empathic society.
While some may believe our focus on diversity is a distraction from education, I know that the focus and the lived experiences are vital for 21st century success. Brave new world ahead!
Dr. Jane Close Conoley became president of Cal State Long Beach in 2014.