A New Look on Cultural Diversity On Campus: As Told by 10 CNU Students

Qualitative Study

Jule Sow and Nick Tambellini

English 353

 

 

Memo

 

To: Robert Lange, Dean of Admissions

 

From: Jule Sow and Nick Tambellini

 

Date: May 23, 2016

 

Subject: Diversity and culture at CNU. What improvement would better prepare students for the real world?

 

Interview answers and background research, as well as newspaper clippings and statistics, show that CNU students are being given a false representation of the real world, as it pertains to diversity and culture. Our findings point to a CNU admissions pattern that focuses on acquiring qualified students from wealthier pockets of the state, which means that students from less wealthier pockets of the state, where a different culture may exist, are being left out. The effect being, students are not being introduced the level of cultural diversity that best reflects life after college. Our evidence revolves around the perspective of ten students, all from different parts of the state and world. A common theme arose throughout the interview process; that the culture at CNU could be quantified as a fake culture, based off of the participants personal background, as they all grew up in different areas.

 

Diversity

 

Our data pool did reflect racial diversity. We interviewed a white female, two black males, an asian male, four white males, and two black females. To truly gauge the level of racial diversity on campus, and the effect it has on preparing students for life after college, we matched the interviews with the statistics. Given that CNU’s amount of white students stands around 75% it was pertinent to understand if that hindered the cultural value of the university. We decided that it did, but not to the extent that the lack of cultural diversity does. We found that racial diversity is less important than where you came from originally, how you were built by your past.

 

Culture

 

We found through interviewing each student that CNU does have a cultural problem, in that CNU has developed a recognizably fake culture, through admitting students of similar backgrounds. This was proven by asking the interviewees to go back through their past and describe what shaped them. Then, we tied their background to the experience at CNU. Though CNU has a vibrant college culture itself, its ability to prepare students for life after college, prepare them for that culture, is stunted, given the interpretations by those we interviewed.

 

Recommendation

 

Our recommendation to the CNU admissions department hinges on your ability to sacrifice some cash for the sake of creating a better cultural environment at CNU that is more transferable to the outside world.  Despite CNU’s student population being predominantly white this should not have a large effect on diversity.  We also would like to recommend that students and faculty be open about diversity and not just view diversity based on race, but  based off one’s experiences as we all have something to share and bring to the table.  

 

Abstract

 

Does CNU prepare its students for the real world?

The purpose of this narrative study is broken down into a question form.  Does Christopher Newport University (CNU) prepare its students in terms of diversity for real world obstacles?   Are CNU students going to value the differences in people they cross paths with? Are they going to mutually respect individuals with different backgrounds, skills, attitudes, and experiences diminishing pre-stereotypic judgments one may place upon people groups? (both in the workplace and their day to day lives). Are they going to engage in proper conflict resolutions? Are they going to take into account various perspectives individuals may have? Above all are they going to harness these differences and be open, acceptive of all people, and of all races?   We interviewed a total of ten CNU students.  The questions asked to these students were based upon how diversity and culture contributed to their upbringing and how CNU’s culture and statistically mediocre diverse student body prepared them for their future experiences.   We recommend for our study that when discussing the subject matter of diversity.  It is necessary to be open about diversity and its meaning. Diversity does not necessarily imply being from a foreign nation.  Diversity constitutes one’s past, and realizing that we all can learn from one another experiences.  We share differences in personality, learning styles, and thought.  We share differences in social group, religious affiliations, and language despite the fact that most of CNU’s student body may come from the same state.  Are focus group reminds us that we are all one people. CNU students need to understand the value of the differences and recognize the differences each and every student brings to the table.  

Key Words: Diversity, CNU, differences, culture, student body, students

 

Introduction

 

After interviewing eight Christopher Newport University (CNU) students, Jule and I compiled our data, looked up statistics, and came up with a question to be raised, or answered eventually, being does CNU’s cultural diversity, labeled as fake by some, stunt a student’s growth into the real world? We divided the interview questions into two main categories, life before CNU, and life after CNU. We tried to make the narrative study as informal as possible, giving the interviewees space and time to think about their past and where they came from, how it shaped them. After grasping a sense of the person before they came onto CNU’s campus, who they grew up around, what was their home life like, we then asked them about the culture shock of coming onto campus. We strayed from asking how the culture could be better, we merely asked that they relay their personal opinions on its current state now, given their personal background. We picked a narrative study because each student has a different story, and we wanted to capture that story, pore through its contents, to better prove our point. We also used statistics and supporting documents, though we focused mainly on the data given by each interview. In the end, through analyzing the cultural diversity of the individual, the question “Does CNU better prepare students for the real world?”, became our conclusion and portal into further study.

 

Appendix

 

Interview Questions

 

Who are you?

  • Tell us about yourself, where do you come from?
  • What has shaped you?
  • How was growing up in your family?
  • If you were to produce a memoir, what would you say about the impact of other people on your life?
  • What type of culture did you grow up in?
  • How important, to you, is diversity within a culture?
  • In what ways did your upbringing teach you the value of diversity?
  • Do you believe that culture and diversity are dependent on one another? How so?
  • Is a culture defined by diversity or, rather, is diversity defined by culture?

Culture at CNU

  • How did your background meld with CNU culture?
  • Describe the culture shock after beginning at CNU. How did you adjust?
  • How would you describe the current CNU culture?
  • How did your pre-conceived assumption of CNU change after being immersed within the student body?
  • Given your background, how has CNU transformed your perspective of the world?
  • Has CNU given you a false representation of diversity on campus?
  • In the new age of digital communication, and trans-international connection, do you think a global culture exists? If so, does CNU culture reflect the growing global culture or fall short of providing an authentic atmosphere?

 

Effective summary

Through our interviews we conducted on CNU students, distinct in background, race, and gender. We gathered data centered around how diversity and culture contributed to their upbringing, and how CNU’s culture and statically mediocre diverse student body prepares them for future experiences as they go out into the real world.

We recommend that CNU students realizing that they are all products of their upbringing.  Be open and acceptive in terms of cultural diversity.  Most CNU students do not come from foreign countries, proven from our interview most CNU students come from Virginia.  The fact being that the CNU student population is one sided being pre-dominantly white.  Failing to represent a good amount of variety in ethnicity/race.  These issues, should not hinder “cultural diversity” as we all are different and can learn from one another.

 Being open to others will open doors to many opportunities ranging from work prospects to an even wider understanding of the world. Based off our interviews many of our interviewees believed that CNU fell short of diversity giving a false impression of the concept of diversity due to the targeting of people, and the classification to which they come from.  One participant believed that CNU is “nowhere near diverse, as it likes to portray itself.  CNU would like to be diverse but have no way of getting there”.  Whereas another interviewee believed that

“Diversity within CNU is not important, everyone is already diverse in their   own way.  This goes back to personal experiences.  A lot of weight is given to race, diversity, and what an individual may look like.  But that’s not what matters.  What matters is what you have to offer”.     

Another participant commented on the fact that “CNU is not diverse when it comes to religion. CNU as one interviewee put it “face a problem in growing diversity” and struggles to do so.

        Nick and I used a narrative study approach.  Which interview a total of 10 participants and all are CNU students. Four white Caucasian males, three of them were from different towns in Virginia, and one of the four was from Finland. We also interviewed one African-American male from a town in Virginia, as well as one Black male individual from Senegal West Africa.   We incorporated females as well in our interviews.  One white Caucasian female from a town in Virginia, as well as two African-American females from a town of Virginia as well.

        While CNU lacks in diversity of distinct ethnicities, races proven by statistics. Does CNU prepare its students in terms of cultural diversity for the road ahead?  

 

Research Methods

 

Our methods centered around exploring the individual through pointed interview questions, designed to probe the past and now present of the person’s relationship with cultural diversity. After analyzing the interview data, we used voyant to pick out keywords. Through analyzing keywords, in conjunction with the interview questions and supporting statistics, we were able to polish out a resulting question, the conclusion.  

Results

 

In this section, we present the results of our research. We uncover an in-depth analysis from our interviews using a website platform called Voyant. This platform aided us in visualizing the frequency of common words our interviewees mentioned.  The words that appeared more frequently appeared larger in a clustered cloud of a collection of words.  This allowed us to make sense of the data and develop meaning from it.  Studying thought patterns of our interviewees helping us form conclusions.  In regards to our purpose of study, “does CNU prepare its students for the real world in terms of cultural diversity”?  We also used graphs based upon a fact sheet that recorded the enrollment of undergraduate CNU students by gender and race for the fall of 2015.  Our results are as shows.

       

word cloud diversity (2)

As displayed from results we find common words such as CNU (appearing most frequently 69 times) participants attitudes toward the word CNU was a personal approach as they analyzed the CNU environment given their backgrounds, and how they melded within the community. Next is the word people (appearing 59 times). Here participants as whole realised the impact both positive and negative that people have had in their lives. Participants were appreciative of the people they have had in their lives, especially the fact being they had the opportunities to learn from them through one another’s experiences.  Participants were aware of common differences individuals may face and how each individual can add to one another’s perspective. Following up after is the word culture (appearing 54 times).  Participants attitudes toward “culture”.  Participants attitude toward CNU culture was a bit bitter CNU does have a cultural problem, in that CNU has developed a recognizably fake culture, through admitting students of similar backgrounds. Succeeding culture is the word “school” (appearing 30 times). Participants attitude toward “school”. Participants tended to compare the demographics (racial diversity) they were surrounded by in high school in relation to CNU.  Some of our interviewees mentioned that they were exposed to more diversity in high school then CNU, and for some it was the complete opposite. Finally we have the word “diversity” (appearing 28 times).  Participants here discussed their views on whether or not CNU portrays diversity on campus.  Given interviewees backgrounds answers varied.  It is with no doubt that participants strongly believed in the importance of diversity.  Having a variety in people, these differences add to one’s learning experience and is very much essential.  We must note however: there are many other aspects one must consider to determine if CNU prepares its students for the real world.  Given a small sample pool we hope we will visualize strong points from our interviews, and let the reader decide for himself/herself (“does CNU prepare its students for the real world”)? We will first begin by making sense of what our interviewees had to say about CNU preparing them for the real world.    

As shown below is a chart laying out the frequency of the word “CNU”.

 

CNU

        From a total of 10 interviews the word CNU is mentioned at least five times from 10 of our participants (except our one outlier who mentioned it once).  Several interviewees mentioned that CNU was a lot like their previous high school in terms of  “diversity” being drastically one sided.  With more students of a particular race dominating the student body.  However, one participant mentioned that CNU was filled with diversity.  Given his background growing up outside of the United States in a small town in Finland.  CNU opened the world for him.  CNU gives students the ability to rise up and be leaders of club organizations, fraternities, sororities, club teams, and even varsity teams.  In addition to managing coursework as well as meeting deadlines, and preparing for presentations, said one of our interviewees.  CNU is a liberal arts school, requiring its students to take a wide variety of classes in distinct fields of study. CNU aware of the concept of being well rounded being a necessary quality in the real world.  Makes sure its students are well rounded. Whether if its taking a finance class teaching one the basics of preparing for the real world.  Dealing with common life budgeting and expenses ex: insurance, loans, mortgage.  Staying practical (living within one’s means) while paying off any debt incurred. Or an econ class teaching students the business model of most business (profit) while addressing economy from global perspectives and the effects an economic crisis may have.   One interviewee said that he saw so much opportunity when he got to CNU and has since developed a sense of the real world.  As he has developed flexibility for an ever-changing culture, as the corporate culture is also always changing.  Another interviewee mentioned that he melded well with CNU as he was very outspoken.  He grew upon his communication skills being at CNU learning how to communicate more effectively with others.  Being a student helped him hone upon his interpersonal skills, as well as management skills.  

As shown below is a chart laying out the frequency of the word “people”.

people

From a total of 10 interviews the word “people” appears of a frequency of at least two or more.  Many of our participants mentioned that the people around them have shaped who they are today.  A large amount of the participants have said that they appreciated all the people they have in their lives for their support, encouragement, and lessons learned through them.  These people only pushed them to go further.  A particular participant said

“You meet people that may have a negative impact on your life.  It’s from those experiences that you learn and grow.  Also you have those people who have very positively influenced you.  They help you grow and learn as a person”.

Another participant mentioned that “when you meet people from different cultures and backgrounds it broadens the world, because everyone has a different perspective”. Now a day what’s most important is not what you know but who you know.  Opportunities come attached to people.  Expanding your network will only put you in a better position in helping you find a job.  CNU’s career center and alumni network set the stage in building networks established for you to use to your advantage.

As shown below is a chart laying out the frequency of the word “diversity”

ddiversity

    Many individuals we interviewed believed that CNU lacks in cultural diversity by race.  One participant mentioned how diversity in terms of ethnicity is one sided, lacking in variety.  An interviewee mentioned, “CNU needs to work on growing diversity on campus, to challenge peoples minds and comfort zones”.  It is important to have a wide variety of diversity in terms of experience, age, physical ability, religion, race, ethnicity, gender and many more elements contributing to a rich environment for learning.  One person interviewed suggested that “diversity is not important what matters is what you have to offer”.

As shown below is an official statistics report on the enrollment of undergraduate male CNU students for fall of 2015, of a sum total of 2179 male CNU undergraduate students.  The white population is the most dominant with a total of 1617 white undergraduate male students taking  up 74.2% of the student population of male undergraduate CNU students.  Next is the black population taking up 9.1% of CNU male undergraduate student population  (a total of 1988 black  male undergraduate CNU students).  Next are those of an unknown race taking up 5.4% of CNU male undergraduate student population (a total of 117 male CNU individuals recorded to be of an unknown race).  Next is the hispanic population taking up 4.7% of the male CNU undergraduate student population (a total of 103 male CNU undergraduate hispanics).  Next is the multi-race population taking up 3.9% of the male CNU undergraduate population (a total of 84 male CNU undergraduate of multi-race).  Next is the Asian population taking up 2.1% of the male CNU undergraduate population (a total of 45 male CNU undergraduate Asians).  Next is the non-resident alien population taking up .4% of the CNU male student undergraduate population (a total of 9 male CNU non-resident undergraduates).  Finally, the American Indian/Alaskan native population taking up .2% of the CNU male student undergraduate population (a total of 5 male CNU American Indian/Alaskan Native undergraduates).  There was only 1 individual of native Hawaiian or other pacific Islander of the CNU male undergraduate CNU population.

male undergrad

male undergrad 2

 

As shown below is an official statistics report on the enrollment of undergraduate female CNU students for fall of 2015, of a sum total of 2872  female CNU undergraduate students.  The white population is the most dominant with a total of 2130 white undergraduate female students taking  up 74.2% of the student population of female undergraduate CNU students.  Next is the black population taking up 7.1% of CNU female undergraduate student population  (a total of 205 black  female undergraduate CNU students).  Next are those of an unknown race taking up 4.9% of CNU female undergraduate student population (a total of 140 female CNU individuals recorded to be of an unknown race).  Next is the hispanic population taking up 4.4% of the female CNU undergraduate student population (a total of 125 female CNU undergraduate hispanics).  Next is the Asian population taking up 3.2% of the female CNU undergraduate population (a total of 91 female CNU undergraduate Asians). Next is the multi-race population taking up 5.4% of the female CNU student population (a total of 154 female CNU undergraduate of multi-race).  Next is the non-resident alien population taking up .4% of the CNU female student undergraduate population (a total of 12  female CNU non-resident undergraduates).  Finally, the American Indian/Alaskan native population taking up .5% of the CNU female student undergraduate population (a total of 13 female CNU American Indian/Alaskan Native undergraduates).  There was only 2 individuals of native Hawaiian or other pacific Islander of the CNU female undergraduate CNU population.

female undergrad

 

female undergrad 2

As shown below is an official statistics report on the enrollment of undergraduate female CNU students for fall of 2015, of a sum total of 5051 male and female CNU undergraduate students.  The white population is the most dominant with a total of 3747 white undergraduate female and male students taking  up 74.2% of the student population of female and male undergraduate CNU students.  Next is the black population taking up 8% of CNU female and male undergraduate student population  (a total of 403 black female and male undergraduate CNU students).  Next are those of an unknown race taking up 5.1% of CNU female and male undergraduate student population (a total of 257 female and male CNU individuals recorded to be of an unknown race).  Next is the hispanic population taking up 4.5% of the female and male CNU undergraduate student population (a total of 228 female and male CNU undergraduate hispanics).  Next is the Asian population taking up 2.7% of the female and male CNU undergraduate population (a total of 136 female and male CNU undergraduate Asians).  Next are the individuals of multi-race taking up 4.7% of the female and male CNU undergraduate population (a total of 238 female and male CNU undergraduate of individuals of multi-race).  Next is the non-resident alien population taking up .4% of the CNU female and male student undergraduate population (a total of 21  female and male CNU non-resident undergraduates).  Finally, the American Indian/Alaskan native population taking up .4% of the CNU female and male student undergraduate population (a total of 18 female and male CNU American Indian/Alaskan Native undergraduates).  There was only 3 individuals of native Hawaiian or other pacific Islander of the CNU female and male undergraduate CNU population.

female and male undergrad

female and male undergrad 2

 

The results speak for themselves.  Does CNU prepare its students in terms of diversity for the road ahead.  The questions remains.  

 

References

 

Christopher Newport University. “Current Enrollements by Level_gender.” Enrollment by Level, Gender and IPEDS Race 2010-Current (n.d.): n. pag. CNU, 2010. Web. 23 May 2016.

 

 

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