By Rachel Gramer, with Mary P. Sheridan and Khirsten L. Echols
A recent Inside Higher Ed article, “Race on Campus, Nontraditional Leaders, Rising Confidence: A Survey of Presidents,” contributes to a body of research that reveals vast discrepancies in perceptions of race depending on the race of the respondent. For example, despite nationwide incidents of racist hate speech and violence (and protests against these) (Jaschik, Anthony, Rancaño, Eligon), a majority of college and university administrators—statistically disproportionately white—indicate race relations on
their campuses as “excellent” or “good” (drawing on data from a 2016 Survey of
College and University Presidents).
In Kentucky, where growth populations are African American and/or Latin@, it’s especially vital to think about perceptions of race based on positions of privilege in higher education, where non-white groups are historically under-represented and less equitably supported. State level support comes from specific initiatives (Governor’s Minority Student College Preparation Program), and information circulates through policy reports (CPE Strategic Planning Policy Forum Focusing on Diversity). Yet, because of our recent nationwide push for college readiness, many policies focus on getting students into college—with less funded, systematic support after they matriculate. So the onus of support falls to individual institutions.
African American and Latin@ students in Kentucky have very different histories and relationships with U.S. education that should not be conflated or effaced (for Latin@ student support, see previous report). Looking at Kentucky State University’s (KSU) diversity plan highlights how institutions might offer whole-person support and mentoring that can help under-represented students not just in getting to college, but in thriving through and beyond graduation.
The only public four-year HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) in the state, KSU is already one of the most diverse colleges in Kentucky. Their diversity plan focuses on recruitment and enrollment of underrepresented populations specific to their institution (Latin@ students and men) (e.g., HBCU master’s degree program to recruit minority students for STEM disciplines). KSU’s retention focus also narrows to non-traditional students and takes a whole-person support approach by offering advising, mentoring, counseling, and tutoring as well as financial support (e.g., the KSU-KCTCS Green and Gold Transfer Initiative to maximize access to four-year degrees for two-year college students). Their goal of increasing faculty diversity is tied to Southern Regional Education Board connections and conferences, beginning with graduate student mentoring and extending through institutional hiring practices. Annually, KSU also conducts surveys of students, faculty, and staff regarding their responses to the institutional climate.
This snapshot of KSU’s diversity plan demonstrates how institutions might create and advocate for policies for specific, targeted populations and their needs. KSU is one model of emphasizing mentoring, asking for (and listening to) individual feedback, and offering whole-person support that is needed not just to get students into college—but to support them in their journey to graduation and beyond.
To consider how your institution might engage in supporting diversity and student success, find more details on KSU’s diversity plan at: