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Daryl G. Smith is a professor of education at Claremont

Diversity’s Promise: Building Capacity for a Pluralistic Society

Graduate University and speaks widely on issues relating to diversity and higher education.

Daryl G. Smith

Diversity in our society is no longer a projection: it is a reality. In the context of compelling issues in the United States and abroad— changing demographics, immigration, educational disparities, civil rights and diversity in the marketplace, to name only a few—diversity provides powerful opportunities and serious challenges. In approaching these challenges and opportunities, Art Center must ask itself how it can build capacity to be an effective, high-performing place where diversity thrives. As we search for an answer, technology provides a useful parallel. Decades ago, institutions understood that their future viability would rest on their ability to build capacity for technology. They understood technology to be central to teaching and research: to the nature of communication, built infrastructure, budgeting, and the hiring of faculty and staff. Over the past 40 years, technology has changed continually, and institutions have adapted with it, developing the human, physical and fiscal knowledge and cultural resources to respond effectively to a technologically sophisticated world. As a result, technology is now part of every corner of institutional life. Diversity, like technology, is a powerful presence, and Art Center will not be credible or viable if it doesn’t make diversity central to its mission. Indeed, Art Center’s strategic plan captures both the educational imperative of diversity as well as the parallel to technology: “In preparing 21st century leaders, Art Center recognizes the profound impact of technology on art and design—on the ways we teach, what we teach and how we engage with each other. Likewise, we recognize the significant impact of diversity on our society. The changing demographics, the social issues surrounding identities and equity, and the interconnectedness of our society both domestically


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and globally make diversity a critical component of Art Center’s capacity to develop the leaders necessary for a changing and pluralistic society.” But putting diversity at the center of the mission is not enough. Art Center must also determine how it will define diversity. Four dimensions capture the institutional framework for much of the work concerning diversity (see figure 1, opposite). The first—access and success for historically underrepresented populations—remains diversity work’s legacy and soul. The second dimension—institutional climate for faculty, staff and students as well as the capacity of the campus to engage in sometimes difficult dialogue—concerns the degree of inclusiveness of the campus for many groups. The third dimension— education and scholarship—critically asks whether all students are being prepared to participate in an increasingly diverse society. Finally, the fourth dimension—institutional viability and vitality—considers the diversity of faculty, staff, leadership and trustees; how the campus is perceived by diverse communities; the role of diversity in strategic planning, etc. In pursuing this vision, Art Center must also monitor progress and engage change in strategic ways. It will need to monitor data related to conventional measures of student success, including disaggregated graduation rates, to identify and aggressively address achievement disparities. It will need to monitor faculty hiring for diversity, the campus climate, the curriculum, and engagement with outside communities. Monitoring these and other indicators will help ensure that diversity, like technology, is an imperative that can both transform and facilitate Art Center’s core mission. As one thinks about the future, one can imagine an Art Center that engages diversity on many levels and provides a model for an inclusive learning environment.

DOT 19  

DOT 19 is dedicated to the Art Center College of Design’s new strategic plan, Create Change, which sets the stage for the next era of growth...

DOT 19  

DOT 19 is dedicated to the Art Center College of Design’s new strategic plan, Create Change, which sets the stage for the next era of growth...