Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Meeting the Challenge of Diversity in a Rural Community College

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Meeting the Challenge of Diversity in a Rural Community College

Article excerpt

Robert Frost's beautiful and powerful work "Mending Wall," known for its oft-repeated phrase "Good fences make good neighbors," provides an apt example of how rituals and heritage can bind one's ability to care for others. They can also stop us from making necessary changes by maintaining artificial barriers. Frost invites us to see the forever challenge of moving from old thinking to embracing a new image. Ultimately the closing lines illuminate the test facing colleges located in communities lacking in diversity and steeped in tradition:

   He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
   Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
   He will not go behind his father's saying,
   And he likes having thought of it so well
   He says again, "Good fences make good
   neighbors."

We have used the College Completion Agenda as one means to increase diversity at our college. Our goal is to have all of our students complete their programs of study and graduate. Our premise is that we must quit mending unnecessary fences--obsolete graduation requirements, lengthy and confusing application procedures, redundant requests for information, etc.--and instead make the changes needed to remove barriers and create a more diverse campus.

The community college, with its open access, has a mission to welcome all diverse groups. While many metropolitan campuses are diverse as to population, it is especially difficult for a homogenous community to see the need for diversity. It is easy for a rural college and community to marginalize the minority population. To combat this, we must provide marginalized groups with the support to succeed.

At Snead State Community College, we have traditionally had a predominately Anglo population, but the Latino population is increasingly becoming a greater portion of our student body. Our career coach Patricia Morgan, a Hispanic woman, works extensively with Latino students in surrounding high schools to introduce them to our college and encourage them to attend. She also serves as the adviser for the Pan Latino Student Organization, one of our fastest-growing student organizations.

Morgan states, "I am not from northeast Alabama, nor from Alabama. I feel this fact is important in my job as career coach because I bring a different perspective to the schools and students that I work with." To Morgan, it is critical that students of color have faculty and staff who can relate to them, not only racially and ethnically, but also through similar life experiences. The growing Hispanic student population now has a place and a voice at SSCC and can identify with a Hispanic female who has successfully navigated the higher education pipeline and earned higher education degrees. …

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