University of California, Santa Barbara

UCSB Kiosk University Center room 1504 Santa Barbara, CA 93106 TELEPHONE (805) 893-8411 FAX (805) 893-7609

What's So Important About Diversity?

Cultural diversity is important because it affects everyone. Cultural diversity encompasses the whole range of human experiences including, but not limited to, age, gender, racial classification, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic class, ability, national origin, geographical location, political orientation, physical size, and appearance. These factors influence the cultural experiences and backgrounds of individuals and groups.

Cultural influences shape the framework within which people view the world. They influence the distinct way in which people define and organize reality, guiding beliefs and basic assumptions about life. Culture is an important guiding force in individuals' lives and shapes not only their perceptions but their relationships with people and the world around them. Cultural groups share behavioral patterns, symbols, values, beliefs and other characteristics that distinguish them from other groups. Cultural groups can provide a source of belonging, mutual help, validation, identity and self-esteem. They are not mutually exclusive in that individuals can hold simultaneous memberships within different groups.

Understanding cultural diversity involves gaining a greater awareness of the ways that cultural heritage and background influence one's values, assumptions, thought processes and relationships. The process of learning about cultural diversity involves moving from a monocultural perspective to a cultural pluralist perspective which involves acceptance, valuing, utilization and celebration of similarities and differences at the personal, interpersonal, institutional and cultural levels.

As a member of the UCSB community, you will have an opportunity to interact with and learn about the experiences and perspectives of individuals and groups from many cultural backgrounds. In addition to academic learning in the classroom, this campus community can become your own learning laboratory in which you can explore many of your assumptions, beliefs and expectations regarding culturally different groups and individuals. One of the most effective ways to achieve an understanding of cultural diversity is by taking advantage of opportunities to develop genuine relationships with individuals who are culturally different from yourself.

The MultiCultural Center provides a forum to engage in and discuss critically many pertinent issues. Serving as a bridge to the entire campus community, the MCC offers a broad spectrum of events including lectures, panel discussions, films and videos, musical, dance, dramatic performances, poetry readings, art exhibits, and a weekly coffee house. Through the provision of space and educational programming, the MCC serves as a catalyst to promote, celebrate, and increase awareness about diversity at UCSB, to recognize cultural differences as well as similarities, and to encourage cross-cultural interaction.

Many of the problems experienced by culturally different groups and individuals are based on cross-cultural miscommunication and misinformation. As a student at UCSB you can help to develop a campus climate where honest, civil and respectful communications can be achieved. Communication is necessary for reducing misinformation and building bridges across the barriers created by societal beliefs about race, ethnicity, gender, age, status, class, disabilities, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

Creating a community that supports cultural diversity will enrich the academic environment by stimulating teaching and research with new perspectives. This, in turn, will potentially generate new questions and new answers to some old problems. In addition, it is crucial that the university prepares students to assume leadership positions in the culturally diverse national and global marketplace. The more informed you are regarding differing perspectives and lifestyles, the more marketable you will be in an increasingly diverse society and world.

We invite you to come and share your perspectives with us and others on campus in order to build a community that is open to exploring, learning about and being enriched by the uniqueness that each of us has to offer.

- Staff at the MultiCultural Center (MCC)