“You have an accent, where are you from? Are you a student here? Can I see your School I.D then?” These are the questions that I encounter almost everyday while on campus, and they make me feel stereotyped as a black student of a different background.
The California State University system takes pride in being the most ethnically, economically and academically diverse student body in the nation. The CSU website states that 60 percent of students in the state are students of color, including 160,000 Hispanic/Latinos, 76,000 Asians and 20,000 African-Americans.
At Sonoma State University, according to the 2016 Fact Book, the student body consists of 48.6 percent White students, 27.6 percent hispanic/latino students, 4.9 percent asian and only 2.2 percent black or African-American students.
As an African-American minority at our university, I feel that Sonoma State needs to have a way to attract more minorities to the campus. While Sonoma State has made some progress by attaining eligibility as a Hispanic serving institution, more focus should be put on attracting students of Asian and African-American backgrounds.
The diversity of a university’s faculty, staff and students influences it’s strength and productivity, as well as intellectual personality. To some students, college might be the first time they have had the opportunity to have real interaction with students from diverse groups.
Data from the National Study of Student Learning, voting and engagement indicated that both in-class and out-of-class interactions and involvement with diverse peers fostered critical thinking. This study also found a strong correlation between the extent to which an institution’s environment is perceived as racially non-discriminatory, and students’ willingness to accept both diversity and intellectual challenge.
Diversity in a learning institution enhances social development. Students get to interact with other students from different ethnicities and backgrounds. This way, students prepare for future work in an inclusive global society. A diverse university promotes creative thinking as well. Students expand their capacity for viewing issues or problems from multiple perspectives and vantage points, rather than viewing the world through a single focus lens.
Sonoma State can improve its diversity by trying to develop relationships with minority communities. Reaching out to high school students from minority backgrounds and promoting Sonoma State as an inclusive institution is a good way to attract minority students. Making financial support and resources available and promoting them to diverse populations is another way that can attract minority students.
Sonoma State can also use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and even YouTube to get to a wider outreach of minority students from around the nation and around the world. The lack of adequate African-American and Asian staff, and a support system for minority students, is also missing in Sonoma State.
Diverse professors and professionals in an institution of learning are an asset to that institution for all students; an academic engagement that builds positive attitudes toward racial issues is fostered and opportunities to interact with those who are different is presented.
A diverse faculty helps offer mentorship and advocates for diversity issues for minority students as well. Without mentorship and support from minority group professionals, I don’t expect to see more minority students at Sonoma State.