Have you ever visited someones house and FELT unwelcome? Have you ever walked into a room and FELT tension? If so, you will be able to empathize with some of our students. How so, you ask?
One of the most amazing aspects of the United States is our diversity. I attended a fundraising lunch a couple of weeks ago and diversity was clearly exhibited at our table. I sat next to a biology professor who was here on a HB1 visa and teaching at a university. Two women sitting at the table were a couple recently married. The heterosexual couple shared with us that they would be celebrating 30 years of marriage in the next month. Many ages were represented at the table. I suspect had the luncheon continued for another hour I would have learned about their diverse political and religious views and perhaps even more. The conversations were rich because the people were diverse. I left the luncheon very uplifted and entertained.
Dona Ana Community College's student body is very diverse. That diversity includes a whole range of differences. What is very important to me is that everyone feels "at home" at DACC. I believe it is important to create a comfortable, stimulating environment at the college in which students are able to learn. That goal is not just a goal for the classroom, but for the entire campus - or in our case - all of our campuses and learning centers.
I find myself asking the question, "How can we ensure we have a comfortable, inviting environment for all students?"
I suspect we engage in a variety of activities, similar to many institutions of higher education, with the goal of creating a safe, comfortable environment for students. Our faculty and staff engage in a variety of professional development opportunities that focus on a respect of diversity. We think intentionally about creating spaces on campus for students to "hang out" and engage in conversations with friends and colleagues, get basic needs met, and connect their devices. We think intentionally about signage and "way finding" to help friends, family and guests find needed services, offices, and people. There is also much more we do to try to be "student-oriented".
Additionally, every couple of years we administer a student satisfaction survey to ask students about their experience on campus. We use the data to identify areas of high importance to our students where they are both very satisfied and areas where they are not very satisfied. We target the areas that need improvement and begin to research best practices in order to improve. This continual improvement process is important to me. No matter how intentional we are about helping our students feel comfortable on campus, without their feedback we have no way of knowing whether or not we are hitting our goal.
So next time you are asked to take a survey at the college, remember how important your input and feedback is to us. Your ratings and comments help us continue to make you and all our students feel at home.