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Conference to look at all benefits of diversity at Illinois and beyond

Craig Chamberlain, News Editor


Conference documenting the differences racial and ethnic diversity makes
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — What is the true value of racial and ethnic diversity for a college campus? What difference does it make not only in educational outcomes for students, but in teaching, research, curriculum, campus climate and student life?

Those questions will be the focus of a conference April 21 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which comes near the end of a comprehensive two-year project examining those questions at Illinois.

The purpose of the conference is to discuss the findings and the model developed from the project and “begin a dialogue that hopefully will continue to examine diversity not only locally, but regionally and nationally,” says Denise Green, who led the Illinois project.

Among the speakers will be academics from Illinois as well as the universities of California at Los Angeles, Maryland, Michigan and Wisconsin, and from the American Council on Education. Most have done extensive research on diversity issues in higher education, and several have supplied testimony in court cases related to diversity or affirmative action.

Green, an education professor now at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, began her involvement in the project while a professor at Illinois. The project and conference were sponsored by the university’s Center on Democracy in a Multiracial Society (CDMS), with funding from the Ford Foundation.

The conference, titled “Documenting the Differences Racial and Ethnic Diversity Makes,” comes almost three years after Supreme Court rulings regarding the use of affirmative action in admissions at the University of Michigan.

Before and after those rulings, many in higher education have voiced their belief that student diversity has benefits, but few have examined anything on their campuses beyond students and their attitudes, Green said. In the project at Illinois, “we really tried to look at the very complex aspects of diversity and not just one single dimension,” she said.

The research team included administrators, faculty, staff and graduate students from across the campus, who looked at the CDMS and four other campus initiatives dealing with diversity in different aspects of the campus environment. Those initiatives included the Ethnography of the University initiative, the Intersections living-learning community, the Program on Intergroup Relations and the Freshman Diversity Project.

Conference sessions are scheduled to deal with findings from each of those initiatives and to discuss the issues raised, both for Illinois and higher education in general.

The conference will open with remarks from U. of I. President B. Joseph White and will close with a two-hour “blueprint for diversity” session for the campus, led off by remarks from Chancellor Richard Herman.

Pre-registration for the conference is encouraged and available online, along with the schedule and a list of speakers. The cost to attend is $15 for faculty, staff and the general public, and free of charge for students.

Most of the conference will be held at the Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., Urbana.