People of WOU: A study of the perception of diversity at Western Oregon University


People of WOU: A study of the perception of diversity at Western Oregon University
Nathan Tew
Faculty Sponsor
Marcus Wenzel
Gavin Keulks
The purpose of my study is to address the perception of diversity on Western Oregon University’s campus. Many publications define the diversity of student populations using only visible attributes including race, age, and gender. With those types of definitions for diversity, Western Oregon University (WOU) could be seen as a predominately young, white and female university, since these groups make up the majority of the student population. However, there are many other ways diversity can be defined, looking at individuals based on invisible attributes, including sexual orientation, geographic origin and socioeconomic class, which cannot be seen on a surface level. Diversity is an essential and beneficial piece for any institution of higher education and provides people with different views that are varied from their own. Just like one cannot judge a book by its cover, it’s hard to truly describe an individual or a group if only specific visible attributes are used. It is important both visible and invisible attributes are used when defining an individual. In order to determine the perception of diversity WOU has to offer, I interviewed 12 students attending Western Oregon University and asked them three questions: How would you describe a typical Western Oregon University student? How would you define diversity? Do you think Western Oregon University is a diverse university? These questions guided my exploration of the perception of the diversity among Western Oregon University’s students. I compared their responses and perceptions to the perception commonly shared by publications, in which diversity is primarily focused on visible attributes such as race, gender, and ethnicity. The student responses could be used to help determine strategies and ways to continue promoting diversity at WOU, which will benefit students in their pursuit of higher education for years to come.
Honors Thesis
Honors Program
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