Diversity is a fact of life. We will find it in people that we believe ‘resemble' us and in people we believe are ‘different' from us. We are all unique and are different in some aspect - it can be in thoughts and perceptions, physical looks, cultures, and beliefs.
Our perceptions play a great role in differentiating people with whom we associate. From the great pool of diversity, we select groups of people with whom we would rather associate. We consider these people to be ‘similar' to us and consider all the rest to be ‘different.' And how we communicate with these people is greatly affected by how we interpret what we know, see, hear, and believe about them, their culture, physical ability, sexual orientation, and beliefs. We seldom test these perceptions we hold true. And in most cases, we don't even try because we don't see why we should.
I would like to tell you there are more reasons why we should embrace diversity than why we shouldn't.
Examples abound of nations around the world that haven't recognized the value of diversity of their people and who have internal conflict and war. If we are to learn from these examples, we should learn that failing to accept and value our diversity is a threat to our society.
In a global environment that is growing closer each day and where different cultures and backgrounds are mixing, we can no longer afford a segregated view of the world. Today, more than ever, we find cultures intermixing, countries doing business with other countries, and people living and working in nations different than their own. Businesses today represent environments where diversified ways of looking at the world are regarded as sources of competitive advantage.
Diversity offers us numerous opportunities to grow and expand our perspectives. You might want to take a trip to Africa, or perhaps do business in Japan, or live in South America. You might want to learn about different cultures, understand why people think and believe the way they do, and see the world through different prisms. In the process, you will learn a great deal not only about the world but also about yourself.
In the end, the perceptions we have about others being different from us might prove to be just perceptions. The reality might be that those we label as different might me much like us, but we'll never know unless we try. Interact with people from different backgrounds in the discovery of yourself - and the world around you.
When we focus on our differences, we build walls. When we focus on our similarities, we build bridges of communication and understanding. And as we progress, we will find the bridges we built were excellent investments in our lives.
I encourage you to join us as we build bridges and celebrate our diversity!
Dr. Traci L. Guinn
Interim Associate Vice President for Institutional Diversity