Keywords: Race, ethnicity, differences, heterogeneity, inclusivity, acceptance

Introduction to Diversity

Student affairs professionals are often one of the primary sources for developing a diverse campus climate.  Answering the question of how to identify, support, and provide resources for underrepresented student populations is important in any attempt to build a more diverse learning environment.  For example, Pope and Reynolds (1997) explain that creating a multicultural campus requires that student affairs professional are able to define cultural competencies within their student population that need to be met.  Furthermore, those competencies should be assessed responsibly and knowledgeably, acknowledging how student affairs professionals can support the students themselves.  Distinguishing specific student groups can sometimes be difficult, as diversity is multifaceted and ever-changing.  As such, learning how to effectively assess already underrepresented groups is necessary to provide relevant support.

When Would You Measure Diversity?

Student affairs professionals may want to measure diversity if their goal is to gauge:

  • Whether or not students are making equitable decisions (both programmatically and individually)
  • A student’s awareness and acceptance of those different from themselves
  • Knowledge of characteristics that an individual may claim (such as ethnicity or race identity)
  • Both quantitative (e.g. responding to a questionnaire about acceptance) and qualitative (e.g. conducting a focus group for LGBT+ students) sentiments towards a university’s responsiveness to diverse populations
  • Perceptions about whether a group’s needs are being minimized or ignored



 Those wanting to measure diversity may find it helpful to start their research by reviewing similar evidence-based literature:

Getting to the What, How, and Why of Diversity on Campus (Gurin & Nagda, 2006)

  • This article dives into different theories of how diverse students interact and respond to different initiatives that campuses provide. Furthermore, the authors describe the programmatic pitfalls those attempting to assess diversity fall into. 


Looking Back and Moving Forward: Future Directions for Diversity Research in Student Affairs (Pope, Mueller, & Reynolds, 2009)

  • A recent review about how student affairs professionals have defined and measured diversity of the past few decades.


Diversity Experiences and College Student Learning and Personal Development (Hu & Kuh, 2003)

  • The authors utilize an experience questionnaire to assess many different outcomes related to having diverse experiences (e.g. how often students had philosophical discussions with people from different countries; whether or not students became acquainted with someone with a race or ethnic background different from their own)


Frequently Used Instruments/Measures

The following instruments/measures have been used to assess diversity:

  • Diverse Learning Environments (DLE)
  • College Student Experiences Questionnaire (CSEQ)
  • CIRP Freshman Survey


Don’t Think This Construct Matches Your Assessment Goals? Check Out These Related Constructs: Belongingness, Adjustment

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