This study recognized diversity, equity, and inclusion (CERSE, n.d.; Crutcher, 2018; Equity Literacy Institute, n.d.; U.S. Department of Education, 2016) efforts as essential for small liberal arts college survival. Using a single six-college consortium as the case, interviews of students, administrators, and faculty indicated readiness to take on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in terms of knowledge and awareness support, financial support, and human resources. In answering the question, in what ways might consortia member-colleges be situated to make change in diversity, equity, and inclusion, the intention was to ultimately support meaningful change within the sustainability-minded consortium studied. Relative to this case, the sustainability field is often seen as disproportionately composed of middle and upper class White academics with a primary focus on ecological rather than social factors of sustainability (McNamara, 2008; Taylor, 2018). Enrollment demographics illustrating predominantly White and middle-class faculty and students, challenge all six institutions within the consortium to cultivate racial and socioeconomic diversity as well as other diverse identifiers among students, faculty, and staff.
Attention to diversity in higher education and specifically for small liberal arts colleges comes at a critical time. Studies have shown that students of color will soon become a majority of the student body on most college campuses (Eagan et al., 2016; Musu-Gillette et al., 2016; Vespa, Armstrong, & Medina, 2018) yet, the racial and ethnic diversity of students at small liberal arts colleges remained lower than that of national universities (US News and World Report, 2018). As birth rates dropped by nearly 13 percent with the Great Recession spanning late 2007 to mid 2009, the number of youth preparing for college is in decline (Grawe, 2018; Gray, 2019). Thus the net enrollment at small liberal arts colleges is of concern (Espinosa, Turk, Taylor, & Chessman, 2019; Grawe, 2018). Strategic colleges struggling to stay afloat will be broadening their reach to students of color, particularly Latinx students, in their efforts to recruit and retain.
As a qualitative study, this project was designed to describe and interpret how mission-driven college consortia, and their member stakeholders, approach initiatives such as those aimed at DEI. This case study, where a particular college consortium was explored in-depth, served as an appropriate methodology. Methods employed included participant observation, focus group interviews, surveys, and document analysis. Among other findings, data revealed that the colleges may be poised to redefine sustainability in higher education in ways that support recruitment and retention of students and faculty of color. Though consistent with consortia college missions, barriers exist. Directives from leadership to faculty and students in the form of strategic diversity plans would benefit the stakeholders’ confidence and competence in achieving DEI. Diversity initiatives might also be advanced more effectively and efficiently if the institutions’ embodiment of sustainability studies was more inclusive of DEI principles and social justice perspectives. Working together as a consortium would could potentially provide needed support for such challenges.
|Commitee:||Aguilar, Teresita, Throop, William, Richards, Centae|
|Department:||Education / Sustainability Education|
|School Location:||United States -- Arizona|
|Source:||DAI-A 81/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Higher education, Sustainability, Multicultural Education, Educational sociology|
|Keywords:||Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Liberal arts, Retention, Social justice|
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