The Wonderful, Diverse World of College

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“It’s such a good feeling/ To know you’re alive / It’s such a happy feeling/ You’re growing inside/ And when you wake up, ready to say/ “I think I’ll make a snappy new day” [Snaps fingers twice].

If you’re like me, as a kid you remember the mornings watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on TV. He did feel like my neighbor and I remember singing the songs and being fascinated by the field trips. My all-time favorite being The Crayola factory and how to make crayons!

As many of you know, here in Pittsburgh, we have a special place in our hearts for the man the world knew as Mister Rogers. He would walk through Carnegie Mellon and Pitt’s campus many times to the PBS studio at WQED. He brought us the Mr. McFeely’s Speedy Delivery, the Land of Make-Believe, and songs upon songs about life in general.

His land of Make Believe was a simple place yet it included a diverse array of characters. My personal favorites being King Friday XIII and Henrietta the Cat. Although it was an idealistic place within Mister Rogers Neighborhood, many kids/adults (including me) to this day would swear that it was a “real” place where they could play and learn the importance of community.

Well, just like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, college is also a neighborhood that really reflects community and diversity. Here, we understand the importance of not just global awareness but impact. We understand that what one person does today will affect not only someone somewhere else in the world but also future generations. To that end, each student brings to campus unique characteristics and perspectives from their background that give multidimensional viewpoints to campus, national, and world events.

And this is essentially what multicultural affairs, cultural diversity and ethnic minority recruitment means. It is a way in which our neighborhood reflects the neighborhoods throughout this country and world. It is our goal to make a neighborhood of inclusion that was accomplished in the Land of Make Believe. I can still remember how Henrietta often had to be comforted after being upset over something that happened that day or King Friday had to be calmed down after getting angry over that same topic. All of the characters reacted differently and all had different opinions about these events or topics. College is a place where each student has not only their own perspective but also their own roles within the campus community and serve their individual purpose for the common good. For instance, every one must cheer at a sports game so that the cheers can be heard and motivate the team to win. Each person must contribute their voice so that it rings loud and true, “Go Irish!” (Hehe!)

For colleges it is important to make sure that the campus population is as diverse as possible in many different ways. From the President’s Speech on Diversity on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Day to the many different student groups celebrating Ghandi’s Birthday; we all care about diversity and feel it is important. We have to have a good mix of men and women, gay and straight, radical and traditional, poor and wealthy, international and domestic, engineers and actors, athletes and the unfortunately uncoordinated students. Therefore, we also need underrepresented groups such as ethnic minority students on campus. For college campuses it takes special initiatives to reach some students where they are and make sure that they understand that college could be a good fit for them as well.

I enjoyed my work as an Ethnic Minority Recruitment Coordinator especially reaching students that might not think that college is a possible choice for them. I work with Building Our Network of Diversity, community organizations, high school visits, and community projects such as College Success 101. It’s a lot of fun and fulfilling for me because these efforts were made possible for me.

Even though college is a “real” neighborhood, we are still striving to fulfill the type of diversity, awareness, inclusion, and community that Mister Rogers envisioned in his Land of Make Believe. It is more than a goal but it is an ongoing effort where everyone has to contribute him/herself…nothing more and nothing less. Mister Rogers understood how special each person is to the whole and that is something that we uphold in higher education. We are conscientious that we are one of the best academic neighborhoods and so we want to be a good and friendly neighbor just like Mister Rogers.

So I take pride in being one of the contributing efforts to the goal of diversity and inclusion in college life. It’s really worthwhile when I receive letters, emails, or phone calls from families all over the world who thank me for my efforts to recruit their student(s). They emphatically say that, if it had not been for our efforts to recruit students from all backgrounds, these students would not have known how great college is.

That makes my job well worth it.

“You always make each day a special day/By just you’re being you/There’s only one person exactly like you in the whole world/And that’s you yourself, and I like you.”

Words of wisdom from Mister Fred Rogers.

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