Embracing diversity to find success

LCCC Students posing with the mascot Talon on campus"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham, Alabama jail, April 16, 1963.

In 2024, the concept of diversity can feel like a buzzword, and it can cause some people to feel skeptical of what it can offer.

But embracing diversity in the college experience is not just a passing trend for folks of a particular political leaning; it's a fundamental element of modern education that fosters personal growth and prepares students for the complexities of the global workforce. As students navigate an era where cultural intersections are increasingly common, the role of diversity, equity and inclusion (commonly called DEI) education and training becomes more pronounced, offering students a way of understanding their fellow humans.

A big problem with the DEI conversation is that many people across the political spectrum don’t understand it beyond the partisan rhetoric heard from both sides of the argument. Folks — both those in favor of DEI training and those opposed to it — frequently aren’t given much opportunity for understanding what it means and why it’s important. Progressives can see DEI as a platform for making others accept and adapt their own opinions. Conservative thinkers, on the other hand, often view DEI as a platform for making them feel guilty about events of the past and an attempt to provide inequitable advantages to members of certain protected classes (a proposition that is fundamentally in opposition to what equity is about).DEI is not, in reality, about any of these things; it’s about benefiting from engaging in diverse populations where we recognize and remove structural issues that may limit equity in access to opportunity for advancement in life. It doesn’t give people in particular classes unfair, meritless advantages. Instead, valuing diversity means providing an equal chance to seize opportunities in ways that structures of the past prevented.

The fact is that more and more employers are making diversity, equity and inclusion a priority. About 60% of workers surveyed said their workplaces include policies ensuring fairness in hiring, pay or promotions, and just more than half indicated they have training or meetings on DEI at work, according to 2023 research published by the Pew Research Center. Among U.S. employers, 77% said they employ a more diverse workforce than they used to, 64% invest more in diversity than in past years and 55% believe they could be doing more to address matters of inequality in their businesses, according to Glassdoor’s 2019 Diversity & Inclusion Study. It’s hard to say what will happen in the next 5-10 years, but it seems likely workplaces will become more diverse and these types of measures will only become more widespread and prominent.

As such, those entering the workforce (ahem, college grads) must have familiarity with the concepts surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion. Not only will it improve your relationships with your colleagues — it can likely help you to succeed in your career.

The value of diversity in education

Diversity encompasses a wide range of dimensions, including race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education and religion. But why is diversity so crucial in a college setting? The answer lies in the myriad of benefits it brings to the educational landscape.

Firstly, diversity introduces students to a broad spectrum of perspectives and ideas, challenging them to step outside their comfort zones. It encourages critical thinking and problem-solving by exposing learners to viewpoints and life experiences vastly different from their own. Many of us have long-held understandings of the world that come into question when we encounter people with different experiences. We cannot emphasize this enough: It is a good thing to think about why you believe what you believe. This constant engagement with diverse perspectives fosters a more profound understanding and appreciation of the world, cultivating open-minded and well-rounded individuals.

When you learn in a diverse environment, you’ll meet people from different backgrounds with unique strengths, challenges and aspirations. As you get to know them — laugh with them, share meals, trade stories about frustrations — we think you’ll find that despite the differences, you have a lot in common. These experiences allow students to better understand and embrace those differences. This is a matter of developing empathy and cultural sensitivity in a way where you won’t make people you interact with uncomfortable. What seems acceptable to you now might not after trying to walk a day in someone else’s shoes. More importantly, though, you’ll have a better idea of how to connect with those people through common interests. It’s not about worrying that you’re stepping on people’s toes all the time — it’s about making friends.  

Preparing for a globalized world

These skills are invaluable not only in personal interactions but also in professional settings, where cultural competence is increasingly recognized as a critical asset. In striving to be the most effective professional you can be, it will be advantageous to have an awareness and understanding of people from diverse backgrounds.

We can get into the weeds about the virtues or drawbacks of globalization, but the fact is that it’s here. With the expansion of communication technology, more and more business is being conducted across the nation and overseas. There’s also a chance you will work with people who have immigrated to America. Exposure to diverse cultures, beliefs and perspectives in college equips students with the ability to communicate effectively across cultural boundaries, a skill that is highly prized in today's workforce.

Cultural competence — the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures — is not just a skill but a necessity in the modern world. A diverse college experience lays the foundation for this competence, preparing students to be global citizens who can contribute positively to an interconnected world.

LCCC's commitment to diversity

Laramie County Community College recognizes the important role of diversity in education that will help its students succeed. Because of this, LCCC has committed itself to embracing a campus culture full of people from different places with a world of experiences. With campuses in Cheyenne and Laramie, LCCC’s stated mission is to ensure that all students, regardless of their background, know they are a part of the Golden Eagle family.

Whether students need mental health counseling, tutoring, mentorship, events or organizations to meet friends, they will find what they need at LCCC to be healthy and productive members of the community. The college’s student organizations, covering a vast array of interests, are welcoming of all who wish to be a part of something fun outside the classroom. Many of those who participate in student organizations find they interact with people from different cultures or backgrounds, building relationships with a diverse array of new friends. Students who participate in the college experience this way are taking steps to prepare themselves for the world outside of college; it’s fun and it’s important.

Leaders at LCCC believe the campus should be a place where all who come through its doors have the same chance as their fellows at walking away with the same benefits — if they’ve put in the work. People from any background can overcome challenges to seize opportunities and build the life they want. The door is ready for you to walk through.

LCCC is looking to set a precedent for how educational institutions can play a pivotal role in preparing students for a world that values inclusivity and multicultural understanding. The world is changing — that is always true, as much now as it ever has been — but the people of LCCC believe they are helping build a bridge to a future where people from all kinds of places can share the rewards of hard work, commitment and determination. What you learn at LCCC can carry through your lifetime. And that will make for a more successful life, making positive contributions to whatever community you choose to be a part of.

Read more about LCCC’s commitment to embracing diversity.