Inclusion and belonging are core community values that impact daily life for all students.
All Columbia students belong here, but we know that not everyone feels the same sense of belonging while they are here and that sometimes each of us can feel like we belong in one place but not another. This can affect every aspect of the student experience – from extracurricular activities to academic performance – making it an issue to address as a community.
Sustaining a campus culture that is informed by the values of inclusion and belonging is everyone’s responsibility and helps to create an environment where students of all backgrounds can succeed.
- To continue to cultivate an equitable and inclusive campus culture to support every students' sense of inclusion and belonging
- To deepen the understanding and appreciation of inclusion and belonging as core community values for which every student is responsible
- To provide student leaders with skills and opportunities to navigate problem-solving successfully in a diverse world
- To enhance students’ abilities to communicate across differences
Learning how to create spaces where people feel like they belong is a lifelong process. Below are some skills that you can develop to help you do that effectively.
Important Skills to Use in Cultivating Inclusion
Active listening is about learning, not debating. Open-ended questions, offering one’s full attention and not interrupting are key ways to engage. The point isn’t to necessarily agree, but to understand why someone thinks the way they do. This can lead to more productive conversations — where you and your conversation partner feel heard, where learning has happened and solutions are more easily identified. Listening skills are a key component of successful interpersonal communications and essential to building inclusive communities.
Coming into a diverse community like Columbia means meeting people with different identities, backgrounds and experiences. And like all thoughtful Columbia students, you may be curious to know about others who are different from you. You might want to watch films, read books or learn online to develop your awareness about cultures and identities that are different from yours. As you think about asking classmates about their identities, keep in mind that not everyone likes to answer difficult or sensitive questions about themselves. Finding common ground — talking about classes, interests and activities — can be a good way to build trust and friendship.
Have you ever been in a situation where you heard someone telling a joke or story about a group of people and their identity that may have been intended to be funny but which instead was hurtful or offensive to you or someone else in the room? Learning how to step in is an important life skill. As an active partner in promoting inclusion on campus, it is important to address moments when people may be communicating or behaving in a way that excludes others — through the hurtful joke, a stereotypical comment about a population, or assumptions about someone based on their identity or identities. When you see problematic behavior, it’s important to find ways to interrupt it or change the subject.
Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we are the ones who make offensive or problematic comments. Everyone makes mistakes. When this happens, it’s best to apologize and listen to learn how your comment affected others. It’s important to take a step back, without defensiveness, to learn from the experience and be compassionate with others and ourselves. The process of self-reflection is a lifelong endeavor, and there will be moments of growth for all of us.