By Tamara Chavez-Strong, MA and Darryl Sweeper, Jr., MA
As chairs of the Diversity Council within the Society for Health Psychology’s (SfHP) Student Council, we plan to use this blog to bring awareness to the importance of diversity as pertains it to the diversity in training, diversity on campus, and more specifically diverse experiences. Our vision is to empower graduate students by normalizing grad school experiences while building community, maximizing diverse connections across specializations, countries, and cultures to help break stigmas and barriers creating inclusiveness with purpose to inform diverse communities of health psychology. By raising awareness of these important topics, we hope to enhance ongoing conversations among trainees about diversity, discrimination, inclusiveness, and social justice.
Diversity on college campuses and in the workforce doesn’t just mean increasing the presence of brown and black students. Diversity is making space for the underrepresented voice, ignored differences, and varying experiences to be recognized and validated. As our nation increases in diversity and inclusivity, it is crucial that institutions of higher education reflect this trend as well.
Diversity promotes creative thinking. Having diverse experiences aids in expanding one’s capacity for viewing issues or problems from multiple angles and vantage points. This can be done by experienced people from a variety of groups with differing life experiences. In effect, diversity can also enhance social development. By widening the social circle, one can expand the pool of people with whom to develop relationships. These diverse perspectives can also be advantageous when encountering new challenges at internships, while conducting research, or other combinations of context, liberating one from the tunnel vision of an ethnocentric and egocentric viewpoint. This allows one to move beyond themselves to gain a panoramic perspective of the world and a complete view of one’s place in it.
Diversity prepares students for future career success. The nation’s workforce is more diverse now than at any time in the nation’s history! One might ask, so what? What comes of having a variety of people and experiences? Diversity in the field of health psychology foster’s competitiveness and innovation. To be successful in today’s diverse workforce requires awareness and sensitivity towards human differences and a general relating to people from different cultural backgrounds. In fact, a research survey conducted by Alex Richards (2011) exhibits that 85% of respondents said diversity is crucial for their businesses, and roughly 75% indicated that their companies would put more focus during the next three years to leverage diversity to achieve their business goals. Diversity prepares students for work in a more inclusive society. Regardless of the profession one enters, it is highly likely that the employers, employees, co-workers, customers, and clients will be from diverse backgrounds—worldwide. By experiencing diversity in graduate school/college, one is laying the groundwork to be more comfortable working and cooperating with a variety of individuals of all nationalities.
Diversity expands worldliness. For some, entering college and graduate school may be the first time one has had the opportunity to have interaction with people of diverse groups. Many people find comfort in being surrounded by likeness and similarities. However, there is one standing fact: Our nation and workforce is ever-changing, and our higher education institutions need to reflect this diversity. A college campus, whether its undergraduate or graduate school, is like opening the door to the entire world without traveling anywhere else. In fact, more than half of the babies born in the United States today are people of color, and it is estimated that by 2050 the nation will have no clear racial or ethnic majority (Passel, Livingston, & Cohn, 2012). What does this mean? Communities of color are tomorrow’s leaders and the organizational landscape will look completely different 5-10 years from now. As we strive to build a national community, it is our responsibility to better prepare for being sensitive and appreciative of various ethnicities, cultures, and identities.
Passel, J. S., Livingston, G., & Cohn, D. (2012). Explaining why minority births now outnumber white births. Pew Research Center.
Richards, A. (2011). Census data show rise in college degrees, but also in racial gaps in education. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 57(21), A24.
Wiggins-Romesburg, C. A., & Githens, R. P. (2018). The psychology of diversity resistance and integration. Human Resource Development Review, 17(2), 179-198.