On a campus like UW-Green Bay, students say there’s a distinct value to diversity.
“You can’t have everyone be the same, know the same stuff,” says UW-Green Bay sophomore Pahoua Yang, a social work major. “Everyone knows the same thing all the time can be boring.”
Defining diversity may not be as easy as some people think.
“When people often think of diversity it’s often a racial concept, but for me diversity is all about meeting people who have different interests, different backgrounds,” said senior communications major Quita Paul.
UW-Green Bay diversity director Deborah Rezac says diversity is no longer just race and ethnicity.
“Now we think of it much broader than that. We think of it including different religions, different sexual expressions, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and in our district, in our University, we also include veterans in that as students who are under-represented and have unique education barriers that we try to acknowledge and provide support for,” Rezac said.
Students say being around different people with different opinions and different backgrounds helps provide an education that is not found in a book or online.
“I feel diversity is extremely important,” said senior Jessica Nell, a social work major. “Without diversity people don’t understand what the world is really like. People can get stuck in their own bubble of this is what life is like and people become afraid of the unknown without diversity.”
“Sometimes walls and biases are created not because of racism but simply because of lack of knowledge,” said Fernando Chavarria, a junior majoring in communications. “So to tear down those kinds of walls and to bring people together the message of diversity needs to be out there.”
“It really changes the way you look at how to solve problems,” said Student Government President Andy Teale. “You get new ideas you may not have thought of before. That’s key not just in a university but I think that’s key in any situation in life.”
It’s not just the students. UW-Green Bay Chancellor Thomas Harden says diversity is a priority.
“What we’re really talking about is acceptance of and opportunities for all students regardless of how we might want to name them,” Harden said.
This year, multi-cultural students make up about nine percent of the student body. Harden says while that may not sound like much, a few years ago that number was five percent.
Still, the Chancellor says diversity is not a numbers game.
“It’s important that we increase the number of students that represent various minorities but it’s not just the number of students that really is important. It’s then what we do with those students, how we help those students once they get here that really holds the key to our success,” Harden said.
The University’s approach to diversity is also expanding to a new framework called Inclusive Excellence. The more comprehensive approach is part of a broader initiative across the whole UW System.
“UW-Green Bay is perfect for Inclusive Excellence because we already embrace the interdisciplinary academic philosophy,” Rezac said. “So it’s taking the academic philosophy of interdisciplinary and expanding it to understand and include various cultures and experiences that make us unique and yet find common ground.”
As a part of the initiative, UW-Green Bay published an Inclusive Excellence website: www.uwgb.edu/inclusiveexcellence