VCSU's vision situates VCSU in a national context, while its mission emphasizes preparations for "life," that is, for success in an increasingly complex, global society. Since Valley City State University serves a rural and homogenous region, a significant concern of the institution has been to prepare students for the more diverse world beyond their hometown, to "Promote the appreciation of diversity, a multicultural perspective, and global awareness"(University Purpose 5).
One of VCSU’s first efforts to provide experiences with the greater, multicultural society, has been to attract students from diverse backgrounds. Over the past 10 years, VCSU has become more diverse, moving from 90% White in 2000 to 86% White by 2009. During that time, the number of students receiving cultural diversity tuition waivers has increased from 39 in 2004 to 60 in 2009.
Census data (2008 estimate) shows a strong racial homogeneity in all of North Dakota, with Barnes County (VCSU's location) even more markedly White. By contrast, VCSU is slightly more racially diverse than the overall state population, demonstrating that efforts to attract diversity to the student body and faculty are producing positive results. Table 4.1 below presents comparisons for 2008; additional census data for the state, county, and University are available in the Resource Room.
In addition to increasing diversity in the student and faculty population, VCSU requires diversity practicum experiences for its education students, to prepare them for the multicultural experiences they will encounter in their teaching careers, and encourages study abroad opportunities through relationships with several partner institutions, including ZJETP (Hangzhou, China), UABCS (La Paz, Mexico), and Minot State University (ND; language study in Peru).
The updated document, "Campus Climate with Respect to Diversity"(June 2011), provides further detail regarding diversity on campus, including VCSU’s commitment to Equal Access and Equal Opportunity, and campus efforts to offer students diverse experiences in the classroom. It also contains recent survey results that note the diversity of student and faculty experiences.
VCSU's strategic plan, VCSU 2015, emphasizes providing opportunities for diversity and the importance of building an understanding of the diverse world in which we live. Goal 1.3 specifically addresses these issues, while goals 1.2 and 2.1 acknowledge and support other issues related to a diverse student body, such as access to programs and learner services.
While it is challenging to help students in a homogenous culture understand and appreciate the world beyond their hometown, county, and state, VCSU is achieving some success in this University Purpose: Student responses on the Noel/Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventories indicate that VCSU is above the national average for two diversity-related items:
In addition, student course evaluations rank faculty highly for their sensitivity to cultural difference (3.7 on a 4 point scale).
Since VCSU is situated in a homogenous region, it faces significant challenges in increasing students’ understanding of diversity. In addition to increasing diversity on campus, faculty are engaged in offering classroom and field experience that promote an understanding of diversity in the greater society.
Strengths: VCSU recognizes its responsibility to broaden students’ perspectives of the world in which they will live and work. Census data and student surveys both indicate that VCSU is succeeding in increasing student exposure to diversity. VCSU has a long-standing sister university agreement with UABCS in La Paz, Mexico, which has recently been renewed.
New Initiatives: VCSU signed a 3 +2 +2 agreement with the Zhejiang Economic and Trade Polytechnic (ZJETP), Hangzhou, China, for students in English, and is currently working on a similar agreement in Business. VCSU already has a small group of students from ZJETP on campus; these agreements will formalize transfer issues and open the opportunity to increase these numbers.
Challenges: The predominately White, rural population of the region presents an on-going challenge, and the campus has been engaged - through both recruiting and academic experiences - in broadening students' understanding of the diverse world in which we live.