So far in this chapter, you have learned strategies for managing the various aspects of wellness and have a better understanding of how doing so helps you maintain healthy relationships in your life. A logical next step is to increase your awareness of differences and similarities among people, which is an important component of building healthy relationships. While you’re in college, you’ll meet students who are different from you in race, ethnicity, culture, economic status, sexual orientation, and religion. These differences will provide you with many opportunities to experience diversity.

Diversity is the difference in social and cultural identities among people living together. In spite of their differences in life story and worldview, most college students have similar goals and dreams. Sharing your differences and similarities with others can enrich your entire life.

Expand Your Worldview How has going to college changed your experience with diversity? Are you getting to know people of different races or ethnic groups? Do your classes have both traditional-aged and returning students? Make it a point to seek out people who are different from you, and share your personal stories and worldviews.
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A college serves as a microcosm of the real worlda world that requires us all to work, live, and socialize with people from different ethnic and cultural groups and in close proximity. In 2014 and 2015, through events in Baltimore, Chicago, Ferguson, Missouri, and Charleston, South Carolina, we were reminded that racial differences continue to create misunderstanding, hate, and violence even in the twenty-first century.

For many students, college is the first time they have interacted with people across the diversity spectrum who see the world differently based on their life experience. That makes college a good place to understand your perspectives on diversity, explore your own feelings and prejudices (we all have them), and build a respectful understanding of how and why people often have different views.


Familiarizing yourself with differences can greatly expand your experiences in the classes you take, the organizations you join, and the relationships you have. This work, although difficult at times, will add to your educational experiences, personal growth, and development. Thinking critically about your personal values and belief systems will also allow you to have a greater sense of belonging and to make a positive contribution to our multicultural society.



Look around your classroom. What kinds of diversity do you see? What other kinds of diversity might exist but can’t be seen? With a small group of students, discuss why some college students have an interest in diversity, both seen and unseen, and why other students avoid the topic. Share your ideas with the whole class.

Other Differences You Will Encounter in College

When you think about diversity, you might first think of differences in race or ethnicity. Although it is true that those are two forms of diversity, you will most likely experience many other types of diversity in college and in the workplace, including age, religion, economic status, physical challenges, learning challenges, and sexuality.

Age. Although some students enter college around age eighteen, others choose to enter or return at an older age. Age diversity in the classroom gives everyone the opportunity to learn from others who have different life experiences. A campus where students of different ages are in classes together can be an invigorating learning environment.

Religion. Religion is a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed on by a number of persons or sects. Freedom to practice one’s religion has been central to the American experience. In fact, many settlers of the original thirteen colonies came to North America to escape religion-based discrimination. However, religion-based discrimination still exists, and people may come under attack based on their religious affiliations. For example, in light of the recent terrorist attacks at the national and international levels, many Muslim students have felt threatened and afraid of being subject to potential hate crimes. In 2015, a female Muslim student was attacked on a college campus while receiving hate-related comments because of her religion. It is important to understand that most Muslims do not subscribe to terrorist groups’ ideologies and, in fact, despise terrorism.


Embrace opportunities on your campus to learn about religions that are different from yours. Doing so will help you overcome any misperceptions you have of others and will make you a more open-minded person able to appreciate global differences.

Economic Status. The United States is a country of vast differences in wealth. This considerable economic diversity can be either a positive or a negative aspect of college life. On the positive side, you will be exposed to, and can learn from, students from a wide range of economic statuses. Meeting others who have grown up with either more or fewer opportunities than you did is part of learning how to live in a democracy.

Try to avoid developing exaggerated feelings of superiority or inferiority. You have more in common with other students than you think. Now your individual efforts, dreams, courage, determination, and ability to stay focused can determine your success.

Learning and Physical Challenges. Although the majority of college students have reasonably average learning and physical abilities, the numbers of students with physical or learning disabilities are rising on most college campuses, as are the services that are available to them. Physical disabilities can include deafness, blindness, paralysis, or specific disorders such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis. Other students have some form of learning disability that makes college work a challenge. People who have physical or learning disabilities want to be treated just as you would treat anyone elsewith respect. If a student with a disability is in your class, treat him or her as you would any student; too much eagerness to help might be seen as an expression of pity.

Learning with a Disability Many college students have a learning or physical disability, but that does not stop them from studying and graduating. All colleges provide support services to students who have documented disabilities.
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If you have, or think you might have, a learning disability, visit your campus office for students with disabilities for a diagnosis and advice on getting extra help for learning problems. Unlike in high school, students with disabilities themselves need to inform this office if they require accommodations.

Sexuality. The word sexuality refers to the people to whom you might be sexually, or even romantically, attracted. You are familiar with the terms gay, straight, homosexual, heterosexual, and bisexual. In college, you may meet students, staff members, and instructors who have a different sexual orientation than you. Sexual orientation can be difficult to talk about, and it is important that you respect all individuals whom you meet. Check to see if your campus has a center for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning/queer (LGBTQ) community. If there are educational events about sexual identity on your campus, consider going to hear some speakers and expanding your worldview.

Stereotyping: Why We Believe What We Believe


Many of our beliefs are the result of our personal experience. Others are a result of a stereotype, a generalization, usually exaggerated or oversimplified and often offensive, that is used to describe or distinguish a group.

A negative experience with individual members of a particular group may result in stereotyping people in that group. We may acquire stereotypes about people we have never met before or have accepted a stereotype without even thinking about or questioning it. Children who grow up in an environment in which dislike and distrust of certain types of people are openly expressed might adopt those very judgments even if they have had no direct interaction with those being judged. Spending time with people who view the world in a way you may never have considered contributes to your college experience and helps you avoid stereotyping.



Think back to the earliest messages you received from family members or friends about how you should react to people who are different from you. Which messages still positively or negatively affect your behavior? Which messages have you revised? Jot down some thoughts.

Overcoming Discrimination, Prejudice, and Insensitivity

If you have ever been treated unfairly because of your race, gender, background, or other characteristics, that memory should motivate you to help stand up for others who are victims of discrimination. Taking action on behalf of others will help you replace negative memories with positive action.

Almost all colleges consider it part of their purpose to provide a welcoming and inclusive campus environment for all students. Because of acts of violence, intimidation, and stupidity occurring in many locations including college campuses, college administrations have established policies against any and all forms of discriminatory actions, racism, and insensitivity. Many campuses have adopted zero-tolerance policies that prohibit verbal and nonverbal harassment as well as hate crimes such as physical assault, vandalism, and intimidation.

Some students instigate hate crimes because of deeply held negative views or fears about people who represent a different race, ethnic group, or sexual orientation. Other students might “follow the crowd” or feel pressured by peers to participate in organized harassment of a certain group. Commit to becoming involved in making your campus a safe place for all students. If you have been a victim of a racist, insensitive, or discriminatory act, report it to the proper authorities.


Commit to Coexist In a college environment, students often learn that there are more commonalities than differences between themselves and others. By learning to coexist respectfully and peacefully, students can take the first step toward building a better world.



Think back on your life. Have you ever been harassed or discriminated against for any reason? Have you witnessed someone else being harassed? How did it make you feel, and how did you react? Did it get you down, or were you able to bounce back quickly? Don’t let someone rob you of an important milestone like your college degree through harassment based on your race, ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.

Challenge Yourself to Experience Diversity

Diversity enriches us all, and understanding the value of working with others and the importance of an open mind will enhance your educational and career goals. Your college campus is diverse, and so is the workforce you will enter or in which you currently are. You will be much better equipped to succeed professionally if you are the kind of employee who can work well with diverse people. Use your desire for success to fuel your motivation to understand and appreciate diversity and to learn about various groups in and around your community, at both college and home. Understanding viewpoints different from yours and learning from such differences will help you see similarities where you didn’t think they existed. Work hard to overcome feelings of awkwardness or being uncomfortable. Small steps toward greater appreciation of diversity builds resilience and confidence that will serve you well over a lifetime, especially if your personal and professional life makes your world bigger. Participate in campus events that include ethnic and cultural celebrations to learn about new and exciting ideas and viewpoints. If you want to learn more about a culture or group, ask a member of that group for information. If you do so in a tactful, genuine way, most people will be happy to share information about their viewpoints, traditions, and history. It is only through allowing ourselves to grow that we really learn.