Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Maintaining Students' Sense of Community in a Multiversity

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Maintaining Students' Sense of Community in a Multiversity

Article excerpt


Colleges and universities are constantly dealing with issues of access, quality, and diversity that have the potential to divide faculty, staff, and students. The University is dedicated to developing intellectual and cultural values through quality academic programs, out-of-class experiences, and active learning. We strive to provide all students with the in-class knowledge and out-of-class experiences to help students achieve their educational goals. Students should have an appreciation for other persons, cultures, and ideas, which may be different than our own. As more and more non-traditional students come to the University, changes have to be made to meet the needs of all students in a multiversity. This paper examines issues related to recruitment and retention activities, student services, and faculty and staff development to promote intellectual and cultural values through active learning, academic programs, and out-of-class experiences.


The community, village-like orientation of the traditional university that flourished in the 1800s gave way in the 1900s to the multiversity, a "one-industry town" with many interests, specializations, and subpopulations (Kerr, 1995). It was Clark Kerr, who coined the term "multiversity" in 1963 that described a multiversity as a fuzzy edged, inconsistent institution encompassing several related internal and external communities.

The varied, and sometimes conflicting, interests of community members in a multiversity are often exacerbated by the changing educational needs and demands of contemporary society. Issues such as rising tuition costs, lack of financial resources, accountability, faculty productivity, and increased student diversity contribute to the fragmentation and departmentalization of the multiversity, creating an institution that is disconnected both internally and externally. The challenge faced by colleges and universities is how to establish a greater sense of campus community.

As one means of meeting these initiatives, the university supports a cadre of student development programs that address the needs of its pluralistic learning community. The divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs have developed collaborations between student life and academic experiences to enhance the student's overall academic experience. The administration has asked the following questions: (a) How do we encourage community affiliation and commitment among students?; (b) How do we directly address student attitudes and perceptions of loss, change and alienation? and (c) How do we develop experiences and symbols that convey the essential character of the institution to both internal and external communities?

As we move into the 21st century, many institutions of higher education, both public and private, will share the challenging questions associated with being a multiversity and the continuing efforts at fostering "community" within a highly diverse student population. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to (a) describe the challenges of fostering community in a multiversity and the role that campus culture plays in addressing that challenge, (b) identify a cadre of student development programs that address the needs of a pluralistic higher learning environment, (c) communicate the elements that lead to the success of these programs, (d) describe the institutional core strategies used for building community, and (e) describe initiatives aimed at building community within specific student populations.

Culture and Context

Multiversities must move away from the highly specialized and isolated world in which they operate, towards a connected world where the mission of teaching, research, and service brings together the many disciplines, areas of knowledge, and diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, age, and ability that did not exist in the traditional universities of yesteryear. …

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