Diversity a goal after lacking results

Ellen Nelson

Ellen NelsonNews Editor

After an accreditation team told SDSU to improve its diversity efforts last November, more than $30,000 was invested to make diversity a focus across campus.

“They weren’t strictly hard on us,” said Laurie Nichols, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “They just said that our programs could be improved.”

The North Central Association of Higher Learning Commission sent a team of officials to closely survey and observe various aspects across campus to decide whether or not SDSU should remain an accredited university.

After consulting and documenting reviews, the accreditation team told SDSU that diversity was a specific area needing improvement.

The university was given a time frame of four years to improve its diversity and by July 1, 2013, a progress report is due.

As a starting point to improve and enhance diversity, the accreditation gave guidelines in their report to SDSU. Diligent implementation of the diversity programs already offered, such as SDSU’s relationship with The Flandreau Success Academy and the various events and activities sponsored by the International Affairs and Diversity office, need to have their overall effectiveness measured.

“Now we’re putting a lot of focus on diversity,” Laurie Nichols said. “We want to be able to display and talk about all of our progress.”

The progress report sent to the accreditation team will include follow-up surveys and overviews of the various diversity programs offered across campus throughout the four years.

The accreditation team said there was not a lack of diversity programs but rather they encouraged more follow-up of the programs already offered. They also acknowledged that SDSU needs strategic plans for its diversity programs. No specific percentage of racial or ethnic diversity was set as a standard to achieve.

Although 2013 is three years away, SDSU is not taking any time to postpone expanding its diversity efforts.

“The whole work of diversity is a long-term deal,” said Tim Nichols, interim director of diversity enhancement.

SDSU is currently involved with recruitment activities in western South Dakota aimed at middle and high school students in Reservations and Native American communities in hopes of attracting future jackrabbits.

Another way SDSU will “strengthen its success” in emphasizing diversity programs is to continue with its relationship with the Flandreau Indian Success Academy, Tim Nichols said.

Diversity in South Dakota continues to grow and include “all kinds of folks,” Tim Nichols said.

“We have a special role as a land grant institution to serve all individuals within our state,” Tim Nichols said.

Another effort to improve diversity in all of its many forms on campus is by The American Indian Educational Cultural Center, located on the main floor of the former telecommunications building on Medary Avenue.

Another means to enhance diversity efforts on campus is by hiring a full-time diversity director, to oversee all diversity areas. With the search already well underway, Laurie Nichols said in the best-case scenario, SDSU will have one chosen by late winter.

“This person will really serve as our leader on campus for our diversity efforts,” she said. “We have some great prospective candidates and are looking forward to implementing this position.”

Tim Nichols’s current position as the interim director of diversity enhancement will be replaced by the hire of the full-time diversity director. His or her duties will be to oversee, manage and coordinate all aspects of diversity for SDSU.

NCA-HLC is required to visit various schools and academic organizations every 10 years. If a university does not receive accreditation, its government funding may become jeopardized.

Also, transfer credits and graduate school applications become less valuable since the school was not able to meet accreditation standards, as described in an Oct. 1, 2008 article of The Collegian. Accredited institutions provide a vast scope of opportunities for students and staff and also help keep universities accountable.

SDSU does not only want to strengthen its current diversity programs, but it also wants to maintain and expand its warm, welcoming campus climate, Tim Nichols said.

Mary Nora, a junior psychology major of Marine, Minn., agrees with SDSU’s investments in enhancing campus diversity.

“The job market is only going to get more diverse as time goes by,” Nora said. “In a state known for its lack of diversity, this is a good move.”

#1.1573085:1765547240.jpg:With a new focus on diversity, SDSU intends to track the effectiveness of current programs:With a new focus on diversity, SDSU intends to track the effectiveness of current programs along with expanding them. A full-time diversity director will be hired, as well.:COLLEGIAN PHOTO BY RYAN ROBINSON