Exploring college students' understanding of diversity : the effect of experience, interventions, and encapsulation Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/2b88qg86s

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  • This study sought to understand how post-secondary students experience and process issues of diversity, to discover what those views of diversity are, and how those views might change. The two issues that participants felt most strongly about were homosexuality and scholarships for students of color. Their views on homosexuality ranged from admitted homophobia, to ambivalence, to tolerance, to full acceptance. Religion seemed to play a part among those who were ambivalent, but not for those who were homophobic. Views were not static, but shifted depending on the circumstances. A participant who might object to a homosexual serving in the military might have no problem having a homosexual as a neighbor. Regarding scholarships for students of color, some of the 27 White students agreed that this was fair, while others seemed to resent the idea and questioned its need. Two of the four multi-racial students were somewhat sympathetic to the latter view. A high degree of acceptance on one diversity issue did not necessarily mean high acceptance on other issues. A participant who advocated for gays to have equal admittance and acceptance in the military was against scholarships for students of color. Participants' views were most influenced by their personal experiences. Interventions such as coursework, workshop, panel presentation, and social contact seemed to have a less influence than personal experiences. Those pivotal moments, as discussed by Young Y. Kim, seemed to have caused stress, adaptation, and growth, which resulted in a greater awareness of an issue, of themselves, and of others. The rejection of experiences and interventions might be explained by encapsulation, as proposed by C. Gilbert Wrenn. Encapsulated individuals seem to choose to reject information or experiences that might challenge their views. The implication for educators is to provide more opportunities for students to have personal experiences involving diversity that might lead to pivotal moments. Thirty-one undergraduates at a small, liberal arts university in the Pacific Northwest were interviewed three times over an average of seven weeks. All had participated in a nationally known diversity workshop and had also participated in regular courses that addressed diversity issues.
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