Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Promoting Multicultural Education: A Holistic Approach

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Promoting Multicultural Education: A Holistic Approach

Article excerpt

There has been a tremendous amount of information written and shared about promoting multiculturalism and understanding diversity on college campuses. Additionally, there has been a thrust by many of the major student affairs professional associations to develop training and teaching methods that will prepare practitioners for the changing student populations on our campuses. This article summarizes the critical multicultural objectives from the most recent student affairs philosophy statements and applies theory to practice from a holistic perspective.

During the decade of the 1990s there has been a tremendous amount of prognostication, deliberation, and discussion about the impending changes that will occur socially, economically, and politically on college campuses. The outgrowth of these discussions and writings have been numerous working papers on what the student affairs profession should do to prepare students in graduate preparation programs and practitioners for the transitions we are now experiencing on our campuses (American College Personnel Association, 1994; National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, 1996a; National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, 1996b, Pope & Reynolds, 1997; Pope, Reynolds, & Cheatham, 1997) . The new millennium is here, and there are several institutions that have answered the call and challenge of developing effective activities that intersect with the new philosophy statements from the national student affairs associations. Societal changes are impacting everyone in higher education, therefore the issue is not what should be done to prepare for or enhance multiculturalism - the issues are what has been done thus far and can a continued commitment to multiculturalism be achieved?

Shifting Societal Demographics

To understand the incentive to promote appreciation of cultural diversity, it is important to first understand the changing face of society. The United States' population is comprised of approximately one-third ethnic minority groups. The Hispanic population is the fastest growing racial ethnic group (Justiz, 1994). This group will continually increase from nine percent of the population in 1990 to fifteen percent, or 47 million persons by 2020 (Dana, 1993). Additionally, between 1980 and 1995, the African American population in the United States grew by twenty one percent compared to the overall United States population growth of fourteen percent (Justiz). Of the new workers entering the labor force by the year 2000, only fifteen percent will be white males and the rest either white women, members of United State's minority groups, or immigrants.

The admission and matriculation of African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics represent nearly twenty percent of the total enrollment in higher education. An important note is that enrollment of African American and Hispanic males has declined considerably over the last ten years. The community colleges, however, do have a higher proportion of Native American, Hispanic, and African American students than do senior institutions (Justiz). When demographic shifts are noted, one group that cannot be ignored is the non-traditional student over the age of 30. There is now one out of three students enrolled in higher education who is part of this cohort (Justiz, 1994). Included in the demographic trends and the discussion of multiculturalism should be socioeconomic status as well as sexual or affectional orientation (Pope et al, 1997). Because of heightened awareness and sensitivity to diversity, many students are examining and claiming their multicultural roots. "Each person has a race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual or affectional orientation, and national origin to be recognized and valued as salient personal characteristics of his or her persona" (Pope et al, 1997, p. 63). Already, there is dramatic evidence of the impact on the demographic landscape of university and college programming from student activities to residential learning communities. …

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