Many colleges and universities talk about making the world a better place, but how? Given today’s social, environmental, financial, and political global challenges, prospective college students have a lot on their plates as future leaders. Students want to know their tuition dollars are going to a globally conscious institution that inspires their dreams and fights for what's right. By investing in causes greater than their own interests, institutions prove their value to students looking to invest in their education.
Let's take a look at the various ways your campus can become an inclusive environment, too!
LGBTQ+ Friendly Campuses
Outside of #PrideMonth, do your LGBTQ+ students and faculty members feel comfortable on campus? Are there any LGBTQ+ exclusive clubs or organizations, awareness events, or murals to celebrate inclusivity? Is your admissions staff trained to use the correct pronouns when addressing prospective students?
These questions may not have been in the spotlight last millennium, but gender identity has become a more important issue among Generation Z and their younger siblings. It is vital to not only hang a rainbow-colored flag for Pride Month in June, but to celebrate the community all year long. Prospective students notice everything during campus tours and are experts in detecting false advertising. Members of the LGBTQ+ community need to know they will be viewed as equals among their cisgender, heterosexual peers.
Check out #CollegePride’s What Makes a College LGBTQ Friendly? YouTube video
You can also take a look at Best College’s list of Top 10 Best Schools for LGBTQ+ Students.
Community Health and Wellbeing
To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? That has been the question for many college students as Fall 2021 approaches. For hundreds of colleges (over 800 as of August 31, 2021) however, vaccinations are required for all on-campus students to ensure safety in the community. Students who refuse a COVID-19 vaccination will either take a gap year or enroll at another institution. While vaccine skeptics may feel the mandatory vaccination violates rights, scientific evidence suggests a vaccinated campus is a safer one. Given the nightmare of Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, college administrators are doing all they can to support the health and safety of the community. The goal is to keep the campus open all year long, even if it means unvaccinated students choose to enroll elsewhere or engage with hybrid learning.
Many schools stood on the frontlines as the COVID-19 pandemic devastated communities around the world. NYU posted an Alumni Faces from the Frontlines section of the news highlighting students and alumni involved in the COVID fight. Public universities, including the University of Wisconsin, the University of Georgia, and the University of Washington, are providing local health guidance and information. And schools like The University at Albany (NY) have transformed vacant parking lots into drive-through testing sites to get more people vaccinated across the Empire State.
From donating facemasks and utilizing 3D printers to design personal protection equipment (PPE) to informing the community and hosting mass vaccination sites, colleges and universities have made a significant difference during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic. If your university chipped in for the greater good of humanity, how are you telling the story?
#BlackLivesMatter is more than just a popular hashtag used on social media. The movement represented a change in our society where countries around the world came together to protest racial inequalities and injustices. While #BlackLivesMatter became even more popular on social media after the murder of George Floyd, racial injustices impact minorities of all backgrounds. One example is found in New York City, one of the most ethnically diverse places on the planet, where hate crimes against Asian Americans skyrocketed from 2020 to 2021.
According to a CNN article, “Throughout the year, US law enforcement warned about a growing threat and concern that the rise of White supremacist groups had become the biggest domestic terrorism challenge. By November, people turned from protesting in the streets to protesting at the polls and Black, Latino and Native Americans voters helped flipped some states blue.”
How is your institution standing up for minority groups? Does your community actively denounce white supremacy and discrimination? And how is diversity reflected among faculty and staff? Columbia University in NYC is focusing its efforts on recruiting diverse faculty members. They recently announced that it is spending another $100 million in the next five years. At America’s most ethnically diverse institution, Stanford University, their “Diversity Works” initiative takes minority student representation to the next level. The University of San Francisco boasts a “Commitment to Diversity” which includes a dedicated Intercultural Center.
Most institutions do some type of fundraising. Whether it is for the construction of a new student commons, refurbishing the library, and developing alumni scholarship programs, recent alumni and past donors are not surprised to find donation links in emails and check requests through direct mail. Some universities have created charities focused on significant improvements, not just for the campus, but worldwide.
C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Since 1903, the University of Michigan has led the way in providing comprehensive, specialized health care for children. Our mission is to integrate clinical care, education, research and advocacy to advance the health status of children, women, and their families and communities statewide. (Source)
The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations
To "improve relations among racial and ethnic groups within the University and to enhance the quality of our common life." In pursuit of this mission, the Foundation seeks to involve students of all racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds in the ongoing enterprises of the University. The Foundation sponsors annual programs and activities that are designed to promote interracial and intercultural awareness and understanding in the Harvard community, as well as to highlight the cultural contributions of students from all backgrounds. (Source)
Coins for a Cause at University of Connecticut
Coins for a Cause is a collaboration between Dining Services, Community Outreach, and various UConn student organizations to raise funds for non-profit organizations. Each month funds are collected through donation boxes located in select Dining Services locations. At the end of the month all of the change is collected, counted, and rolled; a check is then sent to the designated philanthropy in the amount of the raised donations.
Saving Mother Earth
Fresh water is becoming scarce in many areas of the world. Wildfires are tearing through forests. Deforestation is disturbing habitats. Population growth is interfering with environmental quality and natural resources. How is your institution going green? What academic programs train future environmental leaders? Is there waste awareness and recycling efforts on campus? What events support global change? Does your institution have LEED-Certified buildings, community gardens, solar paneling, or electric car charging stations?
A single university cannot fix the global climate crisis, food-shortage epidemic, social or political injustices. Still, actionable steps can make a huge difference and even influence prospective students to take a closer look and take that next step towards enrollment.
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