Social diversity on Parkland’s campus
Champaign – Urbana is a culturally diverse community and social diversity is part of the Parkland College
experience. The current student body at Parkland is mostly made up of Caucasian American citizens but there is evidence of growing diversity on campus.
The make-up of the student body at Parkland varies not only in race and ethnicity but also in age as well. According to the Institutional Research and Accountability department at Parkland, 58 percent of the students enrolled in credit courses for the Fall 2015 semester are Caucasian, 14 percent are African-American, seven percent are Hispanic/ Latino, seven percent are Asian, one percent are Native American and 12 percent of the student population is listed as unknown. The average age of a Parkland student is 23.92 years old. The age of Parkland students ranges from 15 years old to 88 years old but most students (47 percent) fall in the age group of 17 to 20 years old.
Many people on campus, including students, faculty and staff members, think diversity enriches the educational experience provided at Parkland. Ashlee Johnson is a Parkland student majoring in business administration. She said that learning in a diverse classroom has benefits.
“It’s nice to have a lot of different people in your class, a bunch of culturally diverse people in your class room, because they give a lot of different insights and backgrounds,” Johnson said.
Students are not the only beneficiaries of a varied student body. Associate Professor of Sociology, Evelyn Reynolds explained that the college, as a whole, benefits from a diverse atmosphere.
“All students, faculty, staff and administrators benefit from a diverse student body at Parkland College,” Reynolds said. “We evolve by hearing various perspectives on topics and issues, and by having a better understanding the complexities of our world through diverse individuals.”
Reynolds also thinks it is important for every student to feel welcomed and comfortable during their time at Parkland.
“One way to increase those feelings for minority students would be to have more faculty, staff and administrators that share some of the characteristics of those students, whether it be skin color, religion, citizenship status, or social class background,” Reynolds said.
Marietta Turner is the dean of students at Parkland. She explained that a growing understanding of diversity is becoming more important in contemporary society.
“We’re all in a very tiny microcosm now. With the Internet and with instantaneous news feed, we have to come to understand that we literally walk in each other’s shadow. The more we can understand one another and appreciate the humanity of one another the better off we will be.”
The fact that the student body at Parkland is somewhat diverse means that that a typical classroom is filled with students from all walks of life. The educational experience may be different for each individual based on what they have been taught via their culture and life at home.
Willie Fowler, a human sciences and social services professor at Parkland, explained that many of the minority students at Parkland may face challenges outside of school that could possibly interfere with their completion of a degree. He expressed that these students should see their education as a means to bettering their life.
“I think sometimes African American, or minority students, tend to encounter outside life experiences that may alter their path to completion. They have these real world issues. They could be financial. It could be social. It could be a number of different issues that can impact their education and trying to keep them focused all the way through is an ongoing task,” Fowler said.
Fowler explained that all students are valuable and he tries to ensure that all students receive a quality education. His advice to those students who face difficult circumstances outside of school is to remain focused on their education.
“Don’t surrender your entire education to outside occurrences. Try to find a way to move on. Try to find a way and the strength to come back here to the campus and finish,” Fowler said. “Remember why you’re here. Remember that you’re trying to get that education and use that as a springboard to greater things. School isn’t the enemy. School is here to help you along your path and to give you ways to solve those problems that may come before you.”