Facilitating Diversity at Lehman College

In an announcement distributed to Lehman College’s faculty on November 29, Provost Dr. Anny Morrobel-Sosa announced the creation of a new Diversity Steering Council to be comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators. The Council’s first project would be the development of a Strategic Plan for Faculty Diversity by spring 2013.

This project is a logical strategic step consistent with Lehman College’s fundamental commitment to diversity. Lehman College has committed itself to diversity in its mission statement. That statement declares, “Lehman College provides undergraduate and graduate studies in the liberal arts and sciences and professional education…while embracing diversity…”  

Lehman College also embraces diversity in its vision statement, its values statement, and its strategic plan. Its vision statement explains, “Lehman has always been a commuter campus that prides itself on its diversity and commitment to multicultural understanding.” Its values statement proclaims, “Lehman has always been a commuter campus that prides itself on its diversity and commitment to multicultural understanding.” Under Objective 1.1 of its strategic plan, the College aims to “Develop a plan for the hiring of new faculty of the highest quality…that is aligned with College strategic priorities and follows the goals and principles of the College’s affirmative action program.”

At the beginning of the 21st Century’s second decade, promoting diversity has become more than an effort to extend equal opportunity or become inclusive. The nation’s changing demographics (ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic variables) and the intensifying integration of national economies being brought about by globalization and technological change are making diversity an important factor for fostering organizational success.

An effective ability to promote and leverage diversity is particularly important in creative or knowledge-intensive industries. Higher Education is just one of those industries.

Empirical literature has found that diverse groups exhibit greater creativity. Creativity is especially important when it comes to addressing complex problems or adapting to continual change. A November 2004 NBER Working Paper found that a multicultural setting that includes foreign-born workers leads to greater productivity among U.S. workers. Cross-functional groups comprised of members with differing backgrounds, knowledge, and skills are now widely used in a range of industries.

Today, American Higher Education faces myriad challenges. Those challenges include enhancing institutional performance in what may be an extended era of fiscal scarcity, increasing student persistence and graduation rates in the face of the retiring Baby Boom generation, and expanding the frontiers of knowledge through research and publication. Creativity and productivity, both of which are linked to diversity, could allow a college or university to flourish in the demanding environment of today and tomorrow.

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