By Michael Oszust
I’m like most students at Western Michigan University. I haven’t participated in diversity programs, events or organizations on campus.
I’m a 22-year-old white guy from Davisburg, Mich., a small town in northern Oakland County. My zip code had a population of 7,100 — and 95.7 percent were white, according to the 2010 Census.
I went to Holly High School, which has slightly more than 1,000 students from five different villages and townships. Holly High School also wasn’t very diverse because 91 percent of its students were white, according to MOVOTO.
Last year, 72 percent of students at WMU were white, according to the Office of Institutional Research. Research has found incoming white freshmen reported having fewer experiences with diversity because they are from mostly white communities. Most students at WMU grew up in the Midwest, which has the some of the most segregated cities in country. Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee have all made the list.
Since WMU released the Cultural Climate Survey in October 2013, there has been a greater focus on diversity. The survey found 92 percent of participants thought WMU respected diversity and inclusion. One of the recommendations given by the survey was to create and/or enhance diversity programs.
While reporting on the recommendation, my team and I found many white students hadn’t been to diversity programs. As a matter of fact, I have never been to one.
Even though I didn’t participate in any diversity programs, I had many experiences with diversity while at WMU. It wasn’t in an awkward discussion group, but by putting myself in diverse situations.
I have had two jobs on campus. My first job was as a Gold Guide giving tours of main campus. My second job was at Bistro 3: Davis Dining Hall. I also volunteered at the Gryphon Place as crisis call worker for the 211/HELP Line.
The experiences I had while working at these places wouldn’t have been possible at a diversity program. I was able to interact with people naturally. It wasn’t forced like I imagine a discussion group would be.
I’m not trying to discourage anyone from participating in diversity program. But if you are like me and came to WMU with very few experiences with diversity, there are so many opportunities on campus waiting for you. Find what works best for you and grab the reins to a better you.