Preparing College Students for a Diverse Democracy
University of Michigan
I typically speak to educators and many national audiences about some of the work that is being conducted in the social sciences regarding diversity and college-level learning and the goal of preparing students for an increasingly complex and diverse society. This workshop is an opportunity to begin to think how this particularly applies to students and to individuals in the workforce that are in the scientific fields. One of the things that I like to see is that scientists are very excited about their work. I am pleased to share with you today some work that I am very excited about because of its implications for education and a diverse workforce. The focus of my research for the past three years has been on determining and measuring the skills, dispositions, and values among college-educated individuals that are necessary for this changing workforce. I focus on the identification of skills and dispositions that employers indicate are important; the developing theory that links these skills with diversity experiences; and the mechanisms that foster the development of these skills, dispositions, and values during the young adult years.
SKILLS FOR A DIVERSE WORKFORCE
In the mid-1990s, several reports, including Work Force 2000, began to examine the demographic projections to anticipate some of the key skills that will be necessary in the new millennium. Eighty-five percent of the new entrants into the workforce are projected to be women, immigrants, and racial and ethnic minorities. The RAND Institute conducted a survey of employers who identified some key cognitive and social skills that are desirable (Bikson and Law, 1994). Among the skills identified that are particularly relevant to our research focus are (1) the ability to work effectively with diverse groups; (2) openness to new ideas and perspectives; and (3) empathy with other workers’ perspectives, that is, the ability to see the world from someone else’s perspective. Another idea that has emerged in the business literature is that managing diversity in the work environment is becoming increasingly important, not simply because of the increasing numbers of diverse workers, but for reasons of overall organizational performance.
Taylor Cox (1993) has conducted diversity experiments in a number of controlled studies with small groups. What he identified has also begun to be revealed in the business setting: There is greater creativity in working groups with diverse perspectives and diverse people. In a sense, the presence of diverse people and perspectives is important for its organizational rationale. There is less “groupthink”— meaning that everyone does not conform to one view or approach—but it also represents a level of complexity. How does one manage this level of difference in attempting to solve a work problem? To what extent are we actually preparing students to handle difference and possibly conflict in the work environment, or in construction of problems that affect populations? Must they learn these skills on the job or do they have opportunities during college to expand the cognitive development to manage differences that they are likely to encounter in the postgraduate years?
In our current research project we have identified a series of cognitive outcomes that are defined as “active thinking” skills. It is not just logical deduction that is necessary to handle more complex and messy social problems but, rather, complex thinking skills. We are exploring a variety of tests and ways of measuring this. The disposition to think critically is one of these skills and is composed of attributes that include openness to new ideas and inquisitiveness. It would seem that these dispositions are particularly important for scientists to possess.
There are also social cognitive skills that go along with more complex thinking in a diverse society. These include, for example, perspective-taking skills, or the ability to see the world from someone else’s perspective, willingness to discuss and solve complex social problems with others, and social awareness. These are the characteristics that begin to address civic or democratic skills—all of which we are beginning to identify among undergraduates in our studies. That is, we are beginning to explore the extent to which we are preparing students to have a commitment to the public good in their work and in their daily lives that will help our pluralistic democracy thrive. Actually, in higher education there is a broad movement in terms of civic engagement, promoting service learning, and connecting or reconnecting with communities who are in need of the resource talent produced by colleges and universities. We believe that many institutions have the mechanisms in place to increase undergraduate engagement in these activities that will result in a distinguished citizen, one who can participate in a diverse democracy.
A THEORY OF DIVERSITY AND LEARNING
Cognitive psychologists have been studying individuals in terms of thinking and learning for many years. Several of these psychologists have begun to conclude that most of our thinking is mindless. The important point that they are discovering—and they are doing it in a variety of ways—is that we rely on scripts, routines, and automated thinking. We are actually cognitive misers.
So many of our day-to-day interactions with individuals and work (for example, driving to work, students shuffling into large classrooms, or lecturing from “yellowed notes” to students) all consist of rather automatic thinking and behavior. In many ways, in higher education we cannot take for granted that individuals are actively thinking. If we begin with this premise, then we have a better sense of what we need to do in classrooms and in the workplace to inspire more active thinking and learning.
Ellen Langer (1978), a cognitive psychologist, found that encountering new and unfamiliar situations, people, and perspectives causes us to abandon routines and think actively. Changing routines or abandoning old scripts that do not work in new situations helps us to achieve this. When you think about the transition to college, some of the routines and habits that students followed in high school no longer serve them well. They have to adjust to new expectations, people, environments, living arrangements,
and exposure to others from different social backgrounds. From an educator’s perspective, this is a primary time to educate students, because the learning curve can be extremely high.
Piaget (1975), one of the classic cognitive theorists, calls this moment of realization a “disequilibrium.” That is, disequilibrium occurs when individuals encounter perspectives that depart from their own embedded world view and past experiences. That is, they cannot rely on the routines, traditional kinds of thinking, or even categorizations they used as a frame of reference. Sometimes, however, the individual resists this disequilibrium and refuses to process this new information and insists on relying on familiar frames of reference. This can occur upon exposure to new groups of people and takes the form of stereotyping. Stereotyping is a way to avoid active thinking in new encounters with others and relies on very limited past experience and impressions.
Disequilibrium can be very uncomfortable for students in the classroom. Some of the best educators know this and use it as part of their pedagogy to increase active learning. However, those students with the most discomfort with disequilibrium can reject or have adverse reactions to differences in the classroom, particularly if it is not facilitated well. They revert to what is familiar to them, and then we have lost the opportunity for learning to occur. One of the important premises in our research, then, is that we have an opportunity when these moments of disequilibrium are produced, either in the classroom or in the workplace or in other environments, to increase active thinking and learning.
A second important premise that underlies much of the learning and social development theory in the social sciences is that most development occurs in interaction with others, from the time that we are toddlers and into our adult years. Our interactions with others allow us to develop our own views in relation to others. Thus, facilitating interaction in the classroom can also enhance learning.
EMPIRICALLY TESTING THEORY
What does diversity do for individuals in the workplace and in the classroom? It creates conditions of unfamiliarity, some level of disequilibrium and probably discomfort, differing perspectives, and contradictory expectations that then promotes learning and deeper complex thinking. This is the theory we are empirically testing in our studies of college students. We have undertaken a series of replication studies, one of which builds on the other, to try to understand the extent to which diversity experiences during college serve as a vehicle for connected learning, complex thinking, and civic development.
We defined and measured diversity experiences several ways. First, there is often reference to representation and the numerical representation of diverse peers—what we call structural diversity. In higher education we talk about availability pools, “token” representation when there are too few, or tallies of minority faculty and students. The importance of representation, however, which social scientists have identified since the 1950s (Allport, 1954), is that equal status peer groups are very important in breaking down stereotypes and overcoming “tokenism.” Moreover, highly diverse environments provide more opportunities for daily interaction across diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. When numbers of diverse people are sufficient, individuals are less likely to fall into the same stereotype of social hierarchies, but can begin to recognize differences and similarities.
A second way of thinking about diversity in higher education is reference to knowledge about diverse people’s history and cultural legacies, or diversity in the curriculum. One of the questions that was raised by the various lawyers in the Michigan affirmative action cases was whether the same outcomes could be achieved if we simply diversified the curriculum in higher education. Do you need to have diverse people present? We could empirically investigate this question, but no perfect test is possible because the campuses that have diversified their curriculum are also likely to have increased their enrollment of diverse students and employed diverse faculty. We used statistical controls for
campus racial and ethnic enrollment and faculty emphasis on diversity in research and teaching using national data of students from many institutions. We found curricular effects to be important, but informal interaction with diverse peers outside of the classroom was particularly powerful in terms of educational outcomes.
Many courses that have experiential components (service learning, for example) that can reinforce the learning process about diverse walks of life and social problems help students step out of their own world views for a time. When we speak about diversity curriculum, we may be referring to content knowledge, but these courses are also likely to have different levels of engagement with peers or communities that may also be part of the topic of study; there are even variations in how students learn about this in a more formal classroom sense. Aside from general education requirements, we might expect that science students would have less experience with diversity in the curriculum as they are trying to master the basic content knowledge of their disciplinary focus.
However, all students experience interactions with other students outside the classroom every day on a campus. We attempted to gauge individual involvement that is a result of having diverse groups in departments, in classrooms, on campuses, and in workplaces. This informal interaction with diversity is not particularly controlled by the institution. We often assumed that if we diversified the student body, that stereotyping and discrimination would dissipate because people would be able to interact with diverse people. We are finding that this is not always the case, as there remains a great deal of variability in students’ interactions with diverse peers on campuses. The quality and the nature of those interactions with diverse peers are important, and we are monitoring the impact of this on educational outcomes.
A final area that we are studying and developing is understanding the intentional educational programs for improving interactions with diverse peers. We are investigating the form they take, their nature, and their eventual educational impact on outcomes outlined here.
In early work, I found that students who reported they had spent time studying with someone who was from a different racial or ethnic group also reported a variety of educational outcomes (Hurtado, 2001). The strongest positive effects occurred on learning and work-related outcomes, which were measured as students’ assessments of critical thinking abilities, their ability to work cooperatively, and interpersonal skills. Those students who studied frequently with another group indicated higher self-ratings. In addition, strong effects were associated with civic outcomes, such as students’ acceptance of difference, cultural awareness, and their tolerance of people with different beliefs. This provided the basis for more work using a variety of interaction measures and outcomes to replicate these results.
In subsequent work, my colleagues and I have identified students’ postcollege activities in relation to other measures of diversity in college (Gurin et al., 2002). Figure 2.1 shows the effect of attending a more diverse college over the long term (nine years after college entry) for about 8,000 white students who grew up in predominantly white neighborhoods. These students were actually entering environments where unfamiliarity with racial and ethnic differences was most likely. Figure 2.1 shows the bivariate relationships, but we also conducted statistical analysis with all the controls (student background characteristics and characteristics of institutions) that confirms this pattern of findings.
Using data from the Cooperative Institutional Research program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in a sample of former students who attended over 184 different institutions, students were asked to report the racial makeup of their current friends, neighborhoods, and workplace. Students who attended more diverse colleges (where at least 25 percent were students of color) had more diverse friendship groups, lived in more diverse neighborhoods, and worked in places that had more diverse
coworkers than students attending colleges that had the least amount of diversity. Although this is self-reported behavior, it is compelling evidence that exposure to diversity in college can actually break the cycle of segregation in neighborhoods and the workplace in later years. These results confirm findings reported regarding the impact of attending desegregated schools, although the chance to attend such a school is diminishing in increasingly segregated living arrangements (Orfield et al., 1997). Therefore, college represents the next opportunity for students’ interaction with diverse peers. These experiences in educational environments are very important and, barring these opportunities, we are confronted with diversity issues arising in the workplace.
Figure 2.2 addresses the issue of whether diversity in the curriculum has an impact on students. Using two factor-analyzed measures, intellectual engagement and citizen engagement, we explored this question breaking down the national sample into white, African American, and Latino college students. These analyses were conducted by each group, so, in a sense, this constitutes a replication study with each racial and ethnic group. The findings show that a higher proportion of students who reported having taken diversity courses also reported higher scores on the outcomes. It is important to note that these analyses were conducted with statistical controls for initial position on the outcome (measured during the first year of college), as well as student background characteristics (e.g., parental education, ability) and the type of four-year college they attended. We found a significant relationship between taking these courses and the outcomes after ruling out alternative explanations.
Figure 2.3 shows the results of our analyses in gauging students’ informal interactions with diverse peers in opportunities outside of the class and sometimes affiliated with coursework. We are looking at the same two outcomes, intellectual engagement and citizenship engagement, as well as a third outcome
based on students’ self-assessment of their academic skills—an index that includes writing, mathematics ability, and general academic ability.
Each analysis was replicated with white, African American, and Latino student samples, and we found that informal interactions with diverse peers is significantly related to each of the educational outcomes in all student racial and ethnic groups. Here, again, we ran the more sophisticated analyses with the statistical controls for student background and type of college. Results showed that, with informal interaction, diversity maintains a significant effect on the outcomes. We also ran the analysis with controls for having been exposed to a diverse curriculum and found that informal interaction maintains its own unique contribution to the variance in the educational outcomes. Providing opportunities for students to discuss coursework and deal with the diversity of background and experiences on an equal status during college is very important for all racial groups; however, it was particularly important for African Americans’ intellectual skills, engagement, and motivation to have the opportunity to interact with others in a diverse environment.
The survey that obtained the national longitudinal data (from UCLA) was not designed to answer our questions. Because we wanted to continue to test outcomes that were educationally important, we chose to analyze data that the University of Michigan had been collecting on its own undergraduates for over four years. This data had finer measures of outcomes that related to the theory we were attempting to test. The outcomes included information about active thinking, students’ active thinking habits, and complex thinking. Figure 2.4 shows four-year longitudinal study results for students at the University of Michigan. Only the white and African American students are shown because those numbers were largest in the sample pool.
Each shows some aspect of our analyses: the effect of classroom diversity, students’ reports of informal interactions, and comparing students who had experience with the diversity in the classroom and outside of class in specific types of programs at Michigan. This could be intergroup dialogue, where students take a course and engage in facilitated interaction with diverse peers in discussing issues of diversity, or campus events that compliment the course material.
The results show, again, that students with the most frequent exposure to all forms of diversity also tend to report active thinking behaviors. What we find is that the effects appear to be stronger when students are provided with both the knowledge base about diverse groups in society and the opportunity to practice what they have learned with diverse peers. The results of our more sophisticated statistical analyses was reported in a recent issue of the Harvard Educational Review (Gurin et al., 2002).
What do we conclude from the national data so far? Students with frequent interaction with diverse peers demonstrated greater intellectual engagement and active thinking four and nine years after college entry. They also showed a greater capacity to engage in a diverse workplace after college, which is important for the issues we are concerned about at this workshop.
Finally, there was more civic involvement among students exposed to diversity. We had measures of the kinds of activities in which students participated in communities and the variety of their civic commitments. We found greater civic engagement when students had opportunities to interact with diverse peers during their college years.
All of the analyses are on the University of Michigan website. The study was used as part of the affirmative action case to show the educational value of diversity in higher education. All testimony and response to criticism are on the website, and we are currently in the process of completing publications based on the findings.
My colleagues and I were surprised with the consistency of results across a number of outcomes and the number of groups in our findings. Having learned as much as we could from existing data, we decided to follow a new cohort of students entering college in the class of 2000 on ten public university campuses across the country. The first-year data in Figure 2.5 show that about 79 percent of the students rate themselves above average on their ability to cooperate with diverse people. They are very confident
about their skills when they first enter college; however, 66 percent of these students grew up in predominantly white neighborhoods. In effect, they have little direct experience with diversity, or not as much experience as is necessary to deal effectively with new people, perspectives, and social problems.
Only about half of the students rated themselves above average in having actual knowledge of other cultures and backgrounds, and only 9 percent of entering students have had a course on diversity in high school. This indicates that there is a huge gap in their experience, even though the students might be fairly sure about their abilities to get along with others. Because the data are based on self-reports, and because we see some reporting of higher self-assessments than experience would allow, we decided to use more standard measures to assess students’ thinking abilities. It is well known that for standardized pretests and posttests, it is difficult to get undergraduates to take them, unless the exercise has something to do with their major or it is a requirement of the college. We had to get permission to gain access to samples of students in selected introductory courses to administer some of these tests.
We administered a critical thinking skills test, the critical thinking dispositions test, the test of reflective judgment, and in later studies, we added a test of moral judgment. These were administered along with some of the measures from our survey so that we could see the relationship between our own measures and some of the standard tests that have been used on many populations.
We found an interesting link between students’ desire to improve society: A civic commitment or value was strongly associated with their perspective-taking skills, their complex thinking ability, and their standard measure of the disposition to think critically. Now we have made the empirical connection, not only between diversity and learning, but between civic engagement or civic commitment and cognitive development. In addition, we found that students reporting negative interaction with diverse peers had lower scores on the disposition to think critically, which suggests that the nature of students’ relations with diverse peers is linked with their capacity to handle more complexity and or is indicative of “open-mindedness.” Presumably, these are the skills employers are seeking in a diverse workplace.
We are replicating this classroom-based study again and are seeking money to extend the longitudinal assessment of students. We hope to include a focus on science, engineering, and mathematics majors in the hopes of learning more about the experiences of students in their departmental units and peers in similar fields. We need more information about the extent to which the same level of engagement with diverse peers occurring for students in the sciences will produce complex thinking skills and civic commitment. When it comes to scientific training there has been a lot of emphasis on academic achievement, and rightly so. However, we do need to know more about the range of skills students acquire and whether they are prepared for participation in a diverse workplace.
One of the key implications of this empirical research is that diversity is an asset to learning and important for development of the new thinking skills that are needed in the workplace. We need to focus on making the most of the enduring educational benefits of diversity experiences.
We have found that engagement with others and the nature of that engagement are key to producing educational benefits. Diversifying a college, unit, or workplace is the first step in providing opportunities for people to interact, but we also must be attentive to the nature of intergroup relations. In a sense, we have to move beyond the focus on the numbers to think about the climate of the organization for interactions and the extent to which individuals are engaged with each other to obtain the greatest benefits from a diverse workplace, college, or university. We have to consciously create diverse learning environments. In the future, it will be important to identify successful practices to engage individuals’ active thinking behaviors and assist them in dealing with the ambiguity that is part of the real social world—engagement in the differences that are part of our pluralistic democracy.
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Bixson, T.K., and Law, S.A. 1994. Global Preparedness and Human Resources. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Institute.
Cox, T. 1993. Cultural Diversity in Organizations: Theory, Research and Practice. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishing.
Gurin, P., Dey, E.L., Hurtado, S., and Gurin, G. 2002. Diversity and higher education: Theory and impact on educational outcomes. Harvard Educational Review, 72(3):332-336.
Hurtado, S. 2001. Linking diversity and educational purpose: How diversity affects the classroom environment and student development. Pp.187–203 in G. Orfield and M. Kurlaeander (eds.), Diversity Challenged: Evidence on the Impact of Affirmative Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Publishing Group.
Langer, E.J. 1978. Rethinking the role of thought in social interaction. Pp. 35–38 in J. Harvey, W. Ickes, and R. Kiss (eds.), New Directions in Attribution Research, Vol. 2. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Piaget, J. 1975. The Equilibration of Cognitive Structures: The Central Problem of Intellectual Development. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Orfield, G., Bachmeier, M.D., James, D.R., and Eitle, T. 1997. Deepening segregation in American schools: A special report from the Harvard Project on School Desegregation. Equity & Excellence, 30(2):5-24.
Kristen M. Kulinowski, Optical Society of America/The International Society for Optical Engineering (OSA/SPIE) Congressional Science Fellow: The graduate student population in chemistry is very diverse, not necessarily from American-born students, but from foreign-born students. I worked with Chinese, Russians, Croatians, Indians, etc. Can you comment on the outcomes or results of having graduate students working in a naturally diverse community?
Sylvia Hurtado: We have not studied students in traditional doctoral programs. However, there has been some research on professional schools. For example, there are actually two good studies on medical students who have studied in a diverse environment and are now working in a more diverse environment because of that educational experience.
Similarly, in law schools, the diverse interactions that occur are important because legal issues touch a large number of the population and particularly the underrepresented populations. We are finding that students are reporting that exposure to diverse students and cultures is an important part of their education that enables them to understand and be prepared in their professional roles. We have not yet tackled what happens in postgraduate school for the more traditional programs, but research in the other areas is highly suggestive.
William M. Jackson, University of California, Davis: It is a very interesting study. I have two questions. One is, how much self-selection went on? The second is, based on some of your findings, would it imply that African Americans who go to traditional historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) would not be as effective in a diverse environment?
In fact, I think the data show that these students are twice as effective, if you look at their overall professional achievement, as students who go to undergraduate schools in diverse environments.
Sylvia Hurtado: It is not an either/or situation. I think I want to begin with that. I will say that the focus has been on the variety of students, but we have not looked at the HBCU context. The study I am engaged in now with the ten public university campuses includes an HBCU and an Hispanic-serving
institution. We want to find out if the outcomes are the same or different. One of the things that we know is that some of the students enter higher on all the measures that we are monitoring, and we are measuring them all longitudinally.
We do not have all the research in place yet. I would not conclude that the HBCUs are harmful to students. I do not believe that is the case, having visited and been engaged there as part of our collaborating public universities that are involved in this project. We have not explored all of that. We have found that minority students within particular racial student organizations on campus have strong tendencies toward civic engagement. This type of activity is usually reinforced in minority communities. We have not come to any big conclusions about HBCUs yet, but what is suggested is that some same-race involvements are important to key outcomes, including comfort level at the institution, and civic engagement.
The question of selection bias, that is the question that we are constantly working on. I would have to say that the drafts of what I have shown, with the exception of the freshmen data, were all longitudinal.
That is, we had the pretests. When they first came into college, we gave everybody a survey, and some of them took some of these tests that I just discussed. Then we followed them up at the fourth year, asked the same questions, and then repeated this in the ninth year. That is basically what happened in the longitudinal results. We controlled for the selection bias as much as we could. What college you choose to attend is part of the selection bias. We had controls for selectivity of institution, location in the country, public or private, the kind of institution that these students attended.
There were close to 10,000 students in that sample. I have 16,000 students now in a sample of ten campuses; we know a lot about those environments, the selection bias that is operating in those institutions, and how students select those colleges. At best, with nonexperimental field work for this kind of research, you have to introduce all the specific controls you can, and we have done that—family background, income, ability. We had measures of students’ performance on the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) and the GPA to make sure that ability was not the determining factor. Our goal is to try to understand the true educational impact of this kind of intervention. So, we have tried to introduce controls to test those assumptions.
Robert L. Lichter, The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation: I found your notion of disequilibrium intriguing. There was a book published in 1997 called The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Harvard business school professor Clayton M. Christensen (Harvard Business School Press), which offers similar ideas in the context of technical innovation. He discusses the concept of disruptive technologies, the notion that real change is made when new concepts actually challenge existing views of what is useful and important. I can see connections there with your points.
I have two additional suggestions. One, it might be helpful for people here to understand that thousands of students have taken part in the studies. Indeed, in your recent paper alone you are talking about 1,500, so these are not small numbers of data points. Perhaps you might want to comment on that.
Second, you said at the very end that you want to look at the physical and lab sciences.
One of the points that often comes up when you get a bunch of scientists together is that science deals with an objective reality, which is not influenced by who the people are.
That is, if you mix A and B together, you are going to get C, regardless of who does the mixing.
Now, I know how I would respond to that: The questions that are asked, and which lead to observations of that objective reality, are indeed influenced by who the people are. That is, what are the A and B that are mixed?
What would you identify as some of the other issues specific to science when you try to address the larger topics of your studies?
Sylvia Hurtado: I just tried to submit a proposal for a National Science Foundation grant focusing on this issue. We are currently collecting data on 16,000 students at the ten public universities so we will have second-year data.
We did this at the student orientations, so we have initial information. We are collecting data again currently including identification of students’ major areas. If you start from the major area identified in the freshman year, about 80 percent of them change their major. Teachers and engineers are two groups that do not change their minds, but most undergraduates change their minds at a some point in time.
So, by the end of this term we will have data about their majors. What I am proposing to do is collect data in two more years, which will actually be the fourth year. It is not simply a retention study. We want to understand when this growth and development occur during the undergraduate years. We suspect it is largely in the early part of their careers.
Because scientists or budding scientists or those who are declared at the second year focus so much of their time on the sciences, they do less social interaction. Therefore, we want to know how they acquire these different skills—complex thinking, values, and the capacity to understand real-world problems. Some of this might happen within their major in science courses. We hypothesize that the process is very similar.
One of the basic assumptions underlying all of this is that students learn a great deal from their peers. They learn content. They learn vocabulary. They learn how to learn. They learn how to study. As an instructor standing in the front of the room, I also have to know that students are acquiring a great deal, not only from the subject matter that I am teaching, but also from their peers. They are learning altruism, political awareness, and identity development in addition to other things at the same time as they are learning the content. So, peers are very important.
I am very interested in understanding that kind of development for the science student. It might be similar to the development of nonscience students occurring within the peer environment of the major. That has yet to be determined.
Ron Estler, Fort Lewis College: The segment of the underrepresented population that I am interested in is the Native American students. Fort Lewis College, located in southern Colorado, has a 15 percent enrollment of Native Americans of the 4,500 student population. This is due to a tuition-free status for any tribal member.
This idea of disequilibrium also hit home with me. From the Native American student’s perspective, that disequilibrium can be so great that, within the first week of school, there is a high probability that an entering freshman will just turn around and leave.
To engage these students, we have had to place many safety nets around them. Before we are even able to get these students to enter into a dialogue, to share any kind of a cultural difference, these programs have to be in place. We have to help them maintain a cultural connection before we can get to the dialogue stage.
In your study, do you have any Native American representation of students?
Sylvia Hurtado: Yes, we do. The numbers are small in most of the public universities. The University of New Mexico has the largest number of Native American students in our study. We have not included a couple of other institutions that potentially would have a very high population of Native American students. So, our numbers are going to be small overall, but we are trying to protect that number.
The University of New Mexico, for example, has a particular problem. At a certain time in the school year, students will leave because they have to move the sheep from one part of the mountain to the other and help the family continue to do that kind of work. So, we really have to be cognizant
institutionally, which I am pleased that you are doing, of the family traditions that are inherent in these different populations. I would say that the world-view difference is so distinct for Native Americans from that of most students in mainstream society that the disjuncture can be large for them.
I am pleased that you are cognizant of that distinctiveness and the importance of that.
Krishna L. Foster, California State University, Los Angeles: I think that I am seeing a trend here. I am addressing the question, What does it take for someone to be successful? I find in your study, and also in my experience with HCBUs—I am a Spelman graduate—that there is a sense of belonging that can be developed in both models. When you pit people against each other, when you have an African American working with an Asian scholar and they find they can converse, that lifts the African American scholar to the level where they say, whew, I belong here. I am wondering if anybody else sees that trend?
Sylvia Hurtado: I do have a piece in Sociology of Education that talks specifically about the sense of belonging among Latino students, understanding what the environment is like for those students, and creating that larger sense of belonging.
There are a lot of things that can contribute to a more general sense of belonging, which translates into attachment to the institution and, therefore, retains students. There is a body of research on sense of belonging and how that is created in the transitional experience. We have empirical data that show that link you have observed. The strongest, probably most replicated, finding of all the retention literature has dealt with how the extent to which individuals are socially and academically integrated into the institution results in eventual retention.
There may be many different ways. Certainly a lot of the programs we are talking about in this workshop are ways to increase that sense of belonging, engage with the subject matter, and achieve students’ long-term goals.
Joseph S. Francisco, Purdue University: Thank you so much for your presentation. I just have a comment directed from personal experience. One of my reasons for going to a place like Purdue University is that a place like that needs African Americans and the visibility of African Americans.
One of the things that I made clear to Purdue when I went there was that I wanted to teach the freshmen because that was a critical point where I felt I could have the most impact. In my thinking, I was originally anticipating influencing the African Americans and being visible for these kids.
I had a comment from a student who came up to me in my class of 550 students toward the end of the semester. He said, “Professor Francisco, I never thought that I could learn from a black person. My only experience with blacks has been in regard to my parents’ housekeepers and maids.” I did not know how to respond to that. In thinking it through, it made me realize the importance of me standing before that classroom for all students.
You are right. There was a disequilibrium there. The disequilibrium was great for him, but as that semester transpired, I challenged that whole classroom to learn, and he learned and realized that he could learn from me. That student later approached me toward his senior year to do undergraduate research in my laboratory. I understand why it is important for universities to have a diverse faculty.
Sylvia Hurtado: Thank you for that story.
Steven F. Watkins, Louisiana State University: Your data certainly hit home with me. I spent the last ten years or so as director of graduate studies. We have a pretty diverse group, which I will talk about this afternoon.
Counseling incoming and ongoing graduate students has been an interesting occupation. Disequilibrium is an understatement in many cases. I did observe one thing that perhaps we can discuss.
Students who have been at undergraduate institutions in which they are perhaps exclusive or very much in the majority are all disequilibrated when they come. Students who come from HBCUs have a special burden and it is this: They are highly nurtured at these schools. Those HBCUs do a wonderful job of nurturing the students, bringing them along, giving them support. When they come to, for example, a majority white institution, there is a culture clash. Then, their expectation for nurturing and support is not met. In most graduate programs—and we have all been through them—it’s sink or swim. When they meet both the cultural and the sink or swim attitude, it is a double whammy for them.
I spend a lot of time shoring up some bruised egos and depressed people who are otherwise wonderful students and do, in fact, go on, but that is a serious problem. I do not know what the answer is.
Sylvia Hurtado: I have seen that in graduate students. Clifton Poodry remembers when I did graduate student support at the University of California, Santa Cruz. We had a fairly new graduate enterprise, so to speak, so that was unusual for that institution. Creating that community was important for those graduate students. Also, those who were most successful were intellectually engaged in the research with their primary faculty advisor. I will just say that, not only did they get all the advantages of going to foreign countries to do research and presenting national conference papers, etc., but they felt the identity in their education of becoming a scientist.
That is so important to them at that stage, and it gets back to the sense of belonging. It is having both intellectual engagement and the mentorship of a graduate advisor or supervisor in the research process that makes all the difference in the world of graduate students. They do not need to deal with the rest of the institution, although some of them are concerned with that. It is the issues that are part of that research relationship that are absolutely critical and need to be sustained. That is why these programs incorporating students within the larger research enterprise are important to sustain nationally.
Iona Black, Yale University: I agree that you cannot force people to get into diverse groups. So, at Yale, when we put them into discussion groups, we do not know who is who. Within those groups, I find that you have to let them know that it is okay to think outside the box.
There are certain basic concepts that have to be done in the box, but outside that box diversity brings that broadening of ideas. Additionally, you also have to let the students know that you believe they are going to be successful within the sciences.
Finally, it is necessary to give them an outlet to express their views. Do you have any statistics or have you looked at that effect, of thinking outside the box, because that will keep them, I believe, within the discipline.
Sylvia Hurtado: I do not have the research, but I cited Taylor Cox, who has looked at small-group dynamics. Actually, some of Morgan’s work talks about innovative organizations. All of them have talked about the importance of diverse perspectives and managing that. I would get a copy of Taylor Cox’s book. He probably has several, but one book reviews all the research that has been done on thinking outside the box and how that relates to creativity in groups.
Derrick C. Tabor, National Institutes of Health: I want to follow up on something Joseph Francisco said, and it has to do with the issue of role models for students and also for faculty. It also has to do with the issue of being an important role model or developing or exposing not only the student to a new kind of diversity in terms of faculty, but also for other faculty.
People like Isiah Warner and Joseph Francisco, and other minority scientists are also good models for our other faculty and our white colleagues, because many of them have never worked with an African American or Hispanic or never served on faculty with them.
I think it is important that we recognize that diverse faculty serve and meet the needs not only of students, but also of the entire discipline.
I also want to comment on the importance of relationships with students being special, following up on what Iona Black was saying. It is important that students believe that they can be successful no matter the race, ethnicity, or who the teacher is.
William M. Jackson: I would like to make a comment on working together in groups and students learning from each other. This is something we have known in science and engineering a long time: Those students who are the most effective students, who get through the program and get the highest grades and get the degrees, who learn early in the game to work together in groups and on projects, do much better than the students who do not do all this. One of the problems with minority students in general in majority institutions is that they often do not feel that they can work together in groups. One of the successes was described by Uri Triesman who was at the University California, Berkeley, where he showed this effect some time ago.
Most engineering schools are adopting that model, and most scientists, when they talk to students in general chemistry and in physics, tell them they are supposed to work together. Whether they listen to us or not, that is another issue, but that is the way they will become the most successful.
Sylvia Hurtado: Absolutely, and it is becoming a skill that employers want. I have seen different departments introduce the cooperative learning model, not simply because it improves achievement, which has been proven in elementary schools, but also because it is important for the workplace.
Stanley C. Israel, Southwest Texas State University: I find the number one factor in the success of our students is peer-to-peer mentoring. If we can get them involved in peer-to-peer mentoring and get them involved in the learning community, they will almost universally be successful.
Sylvia Hurtado: I have a bit of research on that. I did research on the transition to college and who helped the students most. This was among Latino students, who were the highest achieving, top scorers in three or four cohorts. They were longitudinally followed up. When I found out about their transition to college, I looked at personal, emotional, social, and academic adjustment and attachment to the institution—four levels of adjustment. I found that when they worked with upper-class peers, all the adjustment outcomes were positive. When they said they relied on other freshman peers, outcomes were as negative, particularly with regard to academic adjustment. It was like the blind leading the blind. They are both trying to figure it out and they do not know how to get there.
So, it is important how you structure that peer relationship, so that you have a somewhat knowledgeable, not a novice peer, working with another peer.
Stanley C. Israel: The other question I had is, in your data, have you looked at the difference between first-generation students and students whose parents have been to college? In our experience, we find a tremendous difference in those two groups, including even the Anglo students who are first-generation students. Success, fitting in, and the dislocations of the experience make a difference. We find it much more so for first-generation students in all classes.
Sylvia Hurtado: We are finding confirmation of that. I have done that kind of work with Latino students. Now with the national study of 16,000 students we will be able to look at first generation among all the racial and ethnic groups to see that effect.
Clifton A. Poodry, National Institutes of Health: What comes first, desire to change the world or the skills? When I interviewed students at theme houses at Stanford years ago, one thing that impressed me about the minority students was that everybody wanted to change the world, and that is why they were there. Were they there because Stanford, in its selection process, is selecting for those skills, so they had a group that wants to change the world or, in fact, is wanting to change the world a motivator that helps them acquire those skills? Which comes first?
Sylvia Hurtado: Students do select colleges because they can do certain things socially and also academically.
There is that huge selection bias. That is why we always have multiple institutions in our studies because we want to look at the variation, particularly colleges that admit the variety of students in terms of SAT scores, but also income levels—we try to control for that. We found, primarily, that the lower-income students are more dedicated to going back to the community because that is where they came from.
We have now organized a new study in which we will be able to look at that more longitudinally. So, we will be able to separate the chicken and the egg issue in terms of the desire to influence society.
With this cohort we will have information when they first come in about those desires—that is, how committed were they from day one—we will control for that, and then look at what happens in the second year. If we get funding, we will look at the fourth year, and we will be able to control for their initial dispositions on that measure.
Predispositions are a huge issue for our students who select to go into particular educational interventions, such as service learning. The important question is, when you have it as an intervention requirement where not everybody wants to do this, what is the result? We are separating that as we move along, but we have not gotten there yet.
Yvonne D. Curry, American Chemical Society: At ACS we have the Scholars Program, which has given scholarships to over 1,100 students. I want to go back to something that was raised earlier. Many of the students that we have given scholarships to are at majority institutions. Some of the discussion that comes back to us is often, “I am the only.” We are 30 years down the road on “the only.” I was “the only” for many years and still am “the only” for many situations.
We have to find a way to address this. We have suggestions that we give to our students in our mentoring component, but we have to move beyond this feeling of “I am the only” and the world is on me to succeed. This is happening to too many students, and too many of them choose to opt out because of that concept. I would like for us, at some point, perhaps in your study, to address that.
Sylvia Hurtado: Thank you for raising that issue. We just completed focus group interviews with students on the ten public university campuses, and that came up quite a bit in their interactions with other students and in classrooms.
We had particularly compelling stories about how they had the burden to educate others, when they are “the only,” which becomes huge. That is an addition to all the other stresses and strains to suddenly be put on the spot and be asked to speak for a whole population that you are just learning about, in terms
of your own identity and history. It is too common an occurrence, and we continue to hear the stories. I was educated in the 1970s and I am still hearing the same stories too.
Myra Gordon, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: I am an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Virginia Tech. I would like to address a couple of points that I think I have heard from various people in their comments, points that all seem to sum to one very difficult and intractable problem. This problem is that of climate in many of our science departments.
When I think about the situations that our diverse students often face in science departments, they are numerous. One situation has to do with whether they are really wanted in these departments. Many of these students report feeling, in fact, that they are not wanted. As you know, many of them are admitted as a result of various grant-funded initiatives aimed at minorities. This way of coming into a department actually sets them apart. Something that should be an enabling mechanism is something that sometimes stigmatizes them.
These students often report feeling that they are not in a department because they are really wanted, but only because a researcher was able to get money to bring them there. White students in the same department often mirror the same sentiments. They think of minority students, “You have a free ride, that is how you got here.” So, when it comes to fostering some of those important peer interactions that should promote more critical thinking, more engaged scholarship, better citizenship, and all the kinds of things that we say we want as diversity outcomes, significant barriers exist that prevent these outcomes from occurring.
Also, with regard to peer mentoring programs, this can be a difficult thing for many of our students from HBCUs to engage in with students who are different from themselves. One reason is that they are often fearful of being perceived as not functioning at the same academic level and as not having the same proficiencies with state-of-the-art instrumentation and equipment. They come to prestigious research institutions as proud representatives of their institutions, but very quickly they begin to experience second-class citizenship. As a consequence, it is hard for them to be honest, open, and authentic individuals in cross-cultural, cross-race interactions.
Then we have the problem of black students who have been mentored by very humane, relational faculty members, who are also very smart scholars and researchers. Then they are confronted with the more unidimensional type of white faculty researchers. The students say these faculty members are cold and indifferent. Often, when I talk to faculty about these issues, they say, “No, we are not cold; we are scientific.” Trying to help them understand this dimension of climate is very difficult.
Then there is the problem within departments of inflexible progress-to-degree benchmarks and timetables. If any of our young folks deviate from these timetables and benchmarks, they are in serious jeopardy of being dismissed from the program. I submit that we cannot be so cavalier and insensitive. Sometimes, just minor flexibility means the difference between attrition and successful degree completion. Departments often feel one size fits all. But we cannot afford to kick these students out or force them out. That is what often happens to them, especially when they have no empowered advocates at a level higher than the department to intervene on their behalves. When that is the case, whatever happens at the departmental level is the last word.
What I wanted to say to you, Dr. Hurtado, is that I am very familiar with your work and I am delighted that you are going to examine the science areas. The science areas will be very fertile grounds for your research. Then I would like to ask you to make another presentation. This presentation would be, “Preparing Existing Science Faculty for a Diverse Student Body.”
Sylvia Hurtado: Let that stand for the record.
Tyrone D. Mitchell, National Science Foundation: I want to mention something that involves diversity. Most of my career was spent in industry with General Electric and the past ten years at Corning Incorporated. When I joined Corning, there were a number of problems for African Americans with recruitment and retention in the research and development (R&D) area. The African American employees in R&D formed a group called the Awareness Quality Improvement Team (AQIT), because at that time Corning had a large quality initiative. We took advantage of that. The AQIT was made up of all of the African American scientists and technicians in R&D with representatives from upper management also sitting on this committee. This group was able to make a lot of changes within the corporation that affected everybody, and I will mention a couple of them and some of the outcomes.
One of the people we had sitting on the committee was Dr. Eve Menger, who some of you may know. She sat on the committee as one of the senior managers. She had the idea to bring in diversity discussion groups. We benchmarked DuPont Engineering, who had trained many of its employees using diversity discussion groups, and then we formed a steering committee. I was one of the members of the committee along with Dr. Menger. From this initiative, we put together what was called Empowered Learning Groups (ELGs). The steering committee populated the ELGs with diversity of all kinds.
For example, the diverse group included African Americans, Asians, women, scientists, technicians, managers, and a vice president, such that race, gender, and hierarchy were included. For one year, the group met once a month for a half-day, off site. The group also set ground rules, such as everyone being equal in the group and that discussions within the group were proprietary and remained in the group. Two outside consultants, an African American female and a white male, facilitated the group discussions. The AQIT was started because we saw what was happening to summer interns. African American interns were hired and given tasks like Xeroxing and doing things that were not very productive.
The initial reason for starting the AQIT was to have an impact on the summer intern program. However, a major impact was seen from the results of the ELGs. After a number of employees in R&D had undergone diversity training in the ELG, the graduates of the ELG process volunteered to become mentors for summer interns; many of the interns, but not all, were African Americans. Because of this, the summer intern program for all interns improved tremendously such that the interns became a diverse community of students with a diverse group of mentors, coworkers, and advisors. All of the interns were given meaningful and critical (to the company) projects. The improvement of the summer intern program was one of the positive outcomes.
The other positive outcome was the feedback to the larger R&D community about the positive outcomes from the first ELGs meetings. This led to many employees volunteering for future ELG discussion groups with as many as three ELGs of 30 employees each, running concurrently for the year-long discussions. The question is, would this process work for other organizations?
Sylvia Hurtado: Thank you for that question, because it gives me an opportunity to talk about my second book, Intergroup Dialogue: Deliberate Democracy in College, Workplace, and Community. (University of Michigan Press, 2001). It includes some examples from the business community on how the dialogues occur. You talked about the very principles that are important in the dialogue, that it cannot be a one-shot race awareness workshop kind of deal, because the stereotypes, the embedded thinking, are still there.
We need to have a sustained dialogue. That is one of the key principles that is part of this diversity learning—you need to develop a working relationship with others, get the stereotypes out on the table
and then dispense with them. Now, that takes longer than a one-afternoon workshop. So, the sustained dialogue is very important.
The other part of diversity learning that is important is a superordinate goal. All intergroup relations show that this is the case. You had a goal to improve the work environment. There were multiple goals embedded in this. The group, all together, began to see a common vision, and that is important when you have such a diverse group.
Those are the key principles. This type of diversity training is probably one of the most innovative programs around. My book is the first one that gives case studies of each of the training programs, but your story sounds incredibly useful. The organizations that are running these programs in cities and in the workplace are often nonprofit businesses. These are not the old-fashioned work relation workshops, where people feel nothing gets accomplished. Those do not work. We have to build sustained relationships to get beyond that and change the thinking. I highly recommend it. As I said, I would not have coedited this book if I did not think that kind of innovation was important.
Monica C. Regalbuto, Argonne National Laboratory: I am on the other side of the table. I work with students, but I am not a faculty member. I work in a research institution.
One of our main frustrations is young people in general. I work in an organization where the average population in key positions is usually older, and over 55, where some people in industry are already being terminated. They have been in those positions for many years and they are comfortable with doing things the way they do it. We bring students in for cooperative, graduate, and undergraduate research appointments, and they experience the diverse part of the population at the lower levels. The frustration comes when they are trying to move up. As they attempt to rise in their careers, all those underrepresented people at their current level are not reflected in what is on the top. Has anybody been looking at that?
Second, engineering and science have lost a lot of respect in society, and these are not glamorous careers any more. When I was working at Amoco, which is now British Petroleum, I cannot tell you how many talented Ph.D.s came in and lasted only three years. That is how long it took for them to get a part-time M.B.A. and completely quit doing R&D. The M.B.A. was respected and commanded a higher salary, so it was difficult to keep and retain them at that kind of level. At Argonne, it is slightly different because we are scientifically dominated, so there is respect for being a scientist. I have this feeling that there are many issues addressed at the university level, but that nobody is telling these kids that when they graduate, it is not that simple to be recognized if they are an engineer, a scientist, or a chemist. The university has to do more. I challenge the professional societies in general to do more to raise the level of respect.
It was not good to be a fireman a year ago. Now it is. Now it is good to be a policeman! Well, we have not hit that level of acceptance for our professionals. Chemistry, physics, and even medical doctors are not cool any more because of all these negative things that kids read in the newspaper and on the Internet.
As an example, we lost a scientific segment to the perceived exciting dot coms two years ago, and they did not come back. They spent four years in college, four years in graduate school, and a few of them pursued a postdoc in research institutions—it is a ten-year investment: There was a lot of effort from a lot of people, and then they did not come back. I would like to ask you, is there anybody addressing these issues? All these underrepresented youngsters need to be represented by the people in the upper levels.
Sylvia Hurtado: I think I am going to have to defer to members of the audience on that, in terms of the workplace.
For academia, that has been studied in terms of the faculty demography and how it has an impact on the organization overall. Jim Hearn, a sociologist, has studied this. His recent studies are about the faculty demography, the difficulties that occur as a result of an aging faculty, and how an aging faculty has organizational implications.
In terms of the workforce, you have hit on a principle that actually permeates both the workforce and academia. Once people are comfortable in their roles, they fall into that familiar mind-set, and it becomes difficult to create change in the organizations. This is true for all organizations. So, thinking about how to create change in organizations is probably the key to the answer for these individuals to help young people move through the system. I think that my only strategy as a department chair is bringing people at a senior level who can enter the discussion on an equal peer status basis and have a very different way of thinking. This could be a person of color, or it could be a woman. Sometimes it is a man who has a different way of thinking and who is coming from a very different work life, who comes and introduces those ideas, but has the respect of everyone in the group.
There have been many studies from different organizations and individuals, but I think discussion is the way to begin to strategize. This is the beginning of thinking about how to change the organization so that it is more creative and more inclusive so that young people have a way to move up and move through.
Otherwise, those organizations will no longer be dynamic. They will not be on the cutting edge. That is basically what Morgan and other people in business are saying now, that they will lack innovation.
If you cannot break the groupthink in those different arenas, you will lose ground.