Photo of Students involved in the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center have fun celebrating diversity on campus.

Forming an Inclusive Community

“The definition of diversity recognizes a notion of inclusiveness considerably broader than it was a generation ago. Diversity is not just an idea to express, but a community to form. It is at the heart of what it means to be an American public university in the 21st century.” —President Paul J. Zingg

“Impressive,” the Senior Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) described CSU, Chico's commitment to diversity during the 2009 re-accreditation process. The commission commended the University's institutional vibrancy and its diversity-related programs and initiatives. “We embrace a world of ideas—openness, curiosity, imagination, creativity; all shared within a climate that champions reason, respect, and civility,” says Paul Zingg.

But building an inclusive institution is a continual work in progress, and WASC recommended more “intentional and strategic” efforts. President Zingg and the University rose to the challenge with the creation of the 2011–2016 CSU, Chico Diversity Action Plan (pdf)—a roadmap for achieving “inclusive excellence” in four dimensions: Access and Success, Education and Scholarship, Intergroup Relations and Campus Climate, and Institutional Vitality and Viability.

In 2011, Tracy Butts, English professor and director of the Multicultural and Gender Studies program, was appointed to the new campus position of chief diversity officer. Tasked with providing campuswide coordination for the development and implementation of the Diversity Action Plan, Butts works closely with the President's Diversity Council, comprised of campus and community members—as well as Tray Robinson, director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The University's goals are wide-ranging and ambitious, says Butts. They include achieving the federal designation of Hispanic-Serving Institution by 2016—requiring a 25-percent Hispanic undergraduate enrollment (now at 17 percent)—and recruiting an incoming freshman class that better reflects the demographics of the state of California and the CSU, Chico service area. The University will also participate in the CSU Graduation Initiative to increase the graduation rates of under-represented minority students.

The classroom experience will be changing as well. "We are boosting diversity in and through classroom curriculum," says Butts. Curriculum updates go beyond diverse content matter and include recognizing a variety of learning and teaching styles and supporting research in the field of diversity. As of fall 2012, students can choose one of the following General Education (GE) pathways: Diversity Studies; Gender and Sexuality; Ethics, Justice, and Policy; International Studies; or Global Development General Education. Each path of study includes a diversity component.

Organizing all their general education courses around one of these central themes will provide students with an interdisciplinary perspective on individual and group differences. “Chico State's new GE program strengthens our commitment to diversity,” says William Loker, dean of Undergraduate Education and senior international officer. "In addition to the new diversity pathway in GE, understanding diversity, both locally and globally, is one of the proclaimed values of our new GE program and a learning outcome to be emphasized and assessed across the GE curriculum."

In addition to the overarching Diversity Action Plan, each campus unit is charged with creating a diversity plan of its own, says Butts. “It's about assessing where we are—what efforts are taking place and where our weaknesses are,” she notes. “It is also about determining how we are going to move forward to become the more inclusive campus community that we aspire to be.”

As the University moves forward, it will continually reevaluate what it means to be a diverse institution. The plan is a work in progress. And CSU, Chico, says Zingg, is committed to doing that work.

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