Diversity and inclusion are hot topics in both the workplace and on campuses across the United States. Many institutions spend countless hours and thousands of dollars chasing this seemingly elusive goal. Strategic plans and quotas are pushed with a limited degree of success. But, this is not the case for Webster University.
Webster has found genuine organic inclusiveness and it is thriving on campus. Certainly, university leadership and the Multicultural Center and International Student Association (MSICA) deserve props for fostering a positive environment, but the credit for this truly inclusive campus goes to the diverse group of students.
Graduate student Shikha Ralleigh is from India and is the past president of the International Students Association (ISA). She expressed her view on what inclusion means.
“We embrace and celebrate differences. We try to learn from each other’s beautifully, unique nationality and culture,” Ralleigh said.
The implications of this organic diversity and inclusion have far reaching implications beyond just our campus.
“… Diversity and inclusion complement and feed each other to create a rich, vibrant, sustainable enterprise that is simultaneously an institution of higher education, a business and a community in its own right,” Webster University President Dr. Beth Stroble said.
A recent example of the truly organic nature of Webster’s inclusive culture was at “Latin Night” hosted by the International Students Association (ISA). This event brought students and community members from a wide array of backgrounds, race, ethnicity and national origin. Over 12 different countries were represented and even though it was “Latin Night,” only a few attendees were Hispanic. This didn’t dampen the level of enthusiasm to learn salsa, dancing to a Latin beat.
“Being in contact and dancing with people from different cultures makes me realize that the differences we have may be just language,” native Peruvian and current graduate student Mayda Paredes said. “We all find common ground and we all love to have fun together.”
American born students who have studied abroad are also looking to maintain their open mindedness regarding diversity and inclusion they acquired while abroad. Studying abroad gives students an experience where they are often the “outsider.” Having this experience allows them to better understand our international students and our diverse student body in a way that no classroom or textbook can convey.
“The beauty of my experience in Vienna taught me how important it is to realize that our differences are both special and important,” Latin Night participant and student Megan Price said. “At the end of the day, we all want and need the same things.”
There have been no mandates or written policy that forces this inclusive and diverse experience. #WeAreAllWebster is more than a hashtag. It is a way of life on campus and a mentality that you can carry with you throughout your career and life.