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Graduate students' perceptions of diversity education and school climate

Bethany C Zemba, Johnson & Wales University


Diversity, viewed in its broadest sense, includes all the characteristics that make one individual different from another (Wentling & Palma-Rivas, 1997). A positive school climate encourages harmony among students of different backgrounds and allows students to appreciate each other as individuals (Clements, 1999). Rapidly changing demographics within the United States and appeals for more access to postsecondary education have led institutions to diversify their student bodies and to focus on improving inter-group relations (Muthuswamy, Levine, & Gazel, 2006; Saenz, Ngai, & Hurtado, 2007). With these changes, a particular educational challenge for universities is how to prepare students to value a broad definition of diversity and the institutional role in educating students to recognize how their behavior can lead to the creation of a positive school climate (Trauth, Johnson, Morgan, Huang, & Quesenberry, 2007). ^ Past programming and research has focused on instructional, racial diversity training, which is designed to supply information and raise awareness of race issues (Paluck, 2006). In contrast, constructivist diversity education uses a broader definition of diversity and takes a participatory approach to building skills that helps individuals from all backgrounds to work across differences (Brooks & Brooks, 1999; Paluck, 2006). Because there is no set standard, the onus remains with the institutions of higher education to develop strategies and design systems that facilitate the goal of creating a diversified educational community (Brown, 2004). Many universities host diversity initiatives for their students without information on how these initiatives alter their school's climate. ^ This study used a two-phase quasi-experimental design to explore the relationship between the independent variable (diversity education) and the dependent variable (school climate) to determine whether there is a significant difference between student perceptions of school climate before and after attending a diversity education initiative at a small, prestigious graduate school. Using online surveys, the students' attitudes on campus climate, pre-session and post-session, were quantitatively assessed. The second part of the study used descriptive statistics to identify what types of diversity education students believe are useful and/or important. This analysis serves as a baseline on the appropriate steps needed to improve diversity programming and school climate.^

Subject Area

Education, Higher Education Administration|Education, Multilingual|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Zemba, Bethany C, "Graduate students' perceptions of diversity education and school climate" (2011). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3450946.