Making Diversity Part of the Experience

By AACC Staff

Advancing diversity is a core value at community colleges, and here’s how this year’s Awards of Excellence finalists are promoting the initiative.

Editor’s note: The American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) Annual Convention is underway in San Antonio. This article is part of a series on the Community College Daily by Tabitha Whissemore that profiles nominees of AACC’s 2015 Awards of Excellence. This piece focuses on the four finalists in the category of advancing diversity. The winner, Sylvia Jenkins, president, Moraine Valley Community College, was announced last night.

​(From top left) Jerry Weber, Ervin Griffin, Sr., Glen Gabert and Sylvia JenkinsCollege of Lake County (Illinois)
President: Jerry Weber

At the College of Lake County (CLC), advancing diversity is a core institutional value and one of the college’s six strategic goals.

“We believe diversity is a value we hold, but it is also something that we actively work towards,” said CLC President Jerry Weber.

The college established a Diversity Commission to promote, initiate, engage and monitor the progress of diversity initiatives. Among other things, the commission has hosted lectures and workshops for faculty and staff, hosted performances related to diversity and made sure the CLC library contains books and media on diversity, equity and inclusion.

In 2013, the commission conducted a diversity climate survey of staff and faculty to help guide projects. According to the survey, 88 percent of employees feel welcome at the college.

In 2009, CLC established the Center for International Education to advance international education programs and provide diverse educational opportunities. Students have had opportunities to study abroad, and the college has participated in cultural exchanges. The college has hosted events during International Education Week, facilitated classroom panel discussions and developed an international speaker series.

In addition, CLC initiated the faculty-driven Diversity and Multicultural Education Infusion Project is aims to build a community of individuals who are committed to ensuring their classrooms are inclusive and that all students feel safe and can fulfill their highest potential.

“A diverse world is not just ‘out there’ awaiting our students; it is here at the college and is an essential part of the CLC experience,” Weber said.

Halifax Community College (North Carolina)
President: Ervin Griffin, Sr.

The first line of Halifax Community College’s (HCC) Diversity Statement reads, “We believe an appreciation of differences adds to the richness of our students, the learning environment and the personal development of our entire community.”

This belief is demonstrated in a number of ways on campus and throughout the community. Since being hired in 2006, HCC President Ervin Griffin, Sr., — the college’s first black president — has worked to ensure that campus diversity, including among faculty and staff, reflects the diversity of the region.

More than $230,000 has been invested in multicultural programming at HCC, and a number of events are held each year that are “unique, first of a kind, and varied,” according to Griffin. They include special events during Black History Month and American Indian Heritage Month, an annual International Day and programming for older students.

In addition, HCC has hosted cultural diversity training and development for staff and faculty, and leaders throughout the region. The annual HCC Men to Men Summitattracts more than 500 K–12 students and chaperones.

The college also has responded to the needs of the American Indian community by working with the Haliwa-Saponi Tribal Center and the Hollister Chamber of Commerce to offer postsecondary education programs and services that focus on credential attainment.

“Thanks to HCC, the Roanoke Valley community is being enriched and energized by a new educational, intellectual and cultural explosion that can only expand cultural sensitivity and awareness,” Griffin said.

Hudson County Community College (New Jersey)
President: Glen Gabert

Despite serving one of the most diverse populations in the country, Hudson County Community College (HCCC) has created an environment that ensures improved access and increased student success.

HCCC students come from 119 different countries and speak 29 different languages. The college is able to provide for the educational needs of its 9,000 students so well through vigorous outreach, innovative programs and courses, and the employment of dedicated faculty and staff who mirror the backgrounds and experiences of Hudson County’s residents.

“We are proud to say that when students and prospective students walk through the doors of Hudson County Community College, they see men and women in every area who look and sound like them,” said HCCC President Glen Gabert.

As affordability is often a large barrier for many students, HCCC’s office of student financial assistance works to help students obtain the funds needed for pursuing their studies. And to break down the language barrier, the college has developed a comprehensive, six-level, academic English as a second language (ESL) program. It also offers bilingual classes in math, sociology, psychology, computer science and “college survival skills.”

The college also has worked with K–12 partners to develop familiarity with the college and to build learner access, especially among Hispanic and low-income students. When students do enroll, they benefit from the First-Year Experience program, which includes a mandatory orientation to help them make the transition to college as easily as possible, and provides some of the tools needed for the journey to graduation.

Moraine Valley Community College (Illinois)
President: Sylvia Jenkins

As one of the largest community colleges in Illinois, Moraine Valley Community College (MVCC) serves 26 diverse communities, but strives to be an institution of inclusiveness that embraces all people.

“Diversity and inclusion are woven into the roadmap of our culture with every department dedicated,” said MVCC President Sylvia Jenkins.

The college’s Directing Results through Educational and Academic Mentoring (DREAM) program gets staff and faculty from all departments involved in mentoring students within the multicultural student affairs department. Students receive the social and personal direction they need to help them meet their educational and career goals. During the 2011–2012 academic year, 78 percent of student mentees were retained from the fall to the spring.

Each fall, MVCC invites the community to a diversity dialogue to share best practices and discuss moments of opportunity focused on diversity. The college continues to host the National Hispanic College Fair, is a member institution of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and in 2014 hosted the first U.S. Naturalization Ceremony to be held at an Illinois community college.

MVCC is also active in recruiting, hiring, and retaining diverse staff. All new employees receive diversity training, and are offered additional training opportunities through the Center for Teaching and Learning.

Because of its many efforts to advance diversity, MVCC has received the Higher Education of Excellence in Diversity Award in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

“Diversity is not a destination, but a fluid journey the college continues on for inclusiveness and the assurance of student success,” Jenkins said.

AACC Staff

contributed to this report.

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