Last spring, students, staff, faculty, and administration at Minnesota State University, Mankato took part in a campus climate survey and the results are in.
About 10 percent of the campus population participated in the survey.
The survey indicated that there are things the university is doing well in the inclusion of diversity, but also things to improve on.
“Our overall campus population is much more diverse than it was in the last decade,” said Dr. Henry Morris, the Dean of Institutional Diversity. “Between international and domestic diversity, probably close to 25 percent of our student population are now diverse.”
International diversity refers to people from other countries, while domestic diversity refers to people of color who grew up in the United States. Other areas of diversity include veterans and people with disabilities. The university’s resources for veterans is an area to improve on.
“One thing we were surprised [about]…was with veterans, who were probably our most dissatisfied group,” said Morris. “But we already have a full-time staff person at Student Affairs allocated to work with veterans, and they decided another part-time person to work with veterans, so I think we are already moving in that direction of looking at that situation.”
The university will continue to assess the campus climate regularly in order to see how it has improved and where it still needs to improve.
“The last time the university did this was about 15 years ago. Our plan is now to do a climate study at least every three years,” Morris said.
For the next three to five years, a Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Plan will be implemented to help all students feel safe and welcome at the university. The plan lists goals to work towards, such as providing equal opportunities for all students and providing a safe and inviting environment for a diverse population.
“We are currently operating what we call a ‘bridge plan’. It was a document we created as a university to look at some of the things that we needed to do differently and better, to make this place more inclusive for everyone.”
Morris also explained what the university is doing well in terms of diversity.
“I think we do a good job of recruiting diverse people,” he said. “Those things have kept us financially solvent, because 75 percent of our budget is now enrollment, tuition dollars. We are the most stable university in MNSCU, financially.”
However, it is one thing to be enroll diverse students, but another to keep those students until graduation. There are three aspects that will keep a student in school: academic, social, and financial. All three of these needs must be met for all students in order to keep a diverse population.
“In a lot of cases, finances are the biggest reasons we lose a lot of students of color. Probably more for financial reasons than academic reasons,” said Morris.
The goal is to provide opportunities and resources for these students so that they will stay in school.
To see the Diversity and Inclusion Plan and view the entire results of the survey, visit http://www.mnsu.edu/cultdiv/diveristyinclusionplan.html.