About the Inclusion & Belonging Component

Participation is required for all new students.

September 25 - November 3, 2023

Inclusion & belonging are some of Columbia’s core community values. In this context, inclusion means people feel their full participation is welcomed and belonging means everyone is treated as an essential member of the community.

While everyone at Columbia fundamentally belongs to the community, we can’t assume everyone feels that same sense of belonging during their time here. Experiencing a sense of inclusion & belonging can affect every aspect of the Columbia experience – from extracurricular activities to academic performance, making these important values for our community to uphold.

Inclusion & belonging are everyone’s responsibility and these values help to create an environment where people of all backgrounds can thrive.

Campus Conversations

Meet other students from across the University, have real discussions, and build community in this student-facilitated dialogue about identity and inclusion.

Independent Projects

Develop a project that aligns with your interests or professional development goals. You can do it on your own or with a small group.

Online Tutorial

Complete an interactive 30-minute online tutorial about diversity, identities and communities.

School-specific Workshops

Some schools are hosting inclusion & belonging workshops and events. Choose from workshops at your school and participate with your classmates! Register early to guarantee your spot.

University-Wide Events

These events are available to all Columbia University students and satisfy CCI requirements.

Video and Podcast Collections

The video and podcasts collections include several TED Talks and cover issues of identity, intersectionality, history, and resilience.

Inclusion & Belonging Component Goals

Our overarching goal is to foster an inclusive community that supports all students and their sense of belonging. We aim to achieve this by:

  • Expanding students’ understanding of key concepts related to inclusion & belonging, such as diversity, equity, bias and allyship.
  • Providing students with opportunities to re-evaluate preconceived notions about people different from themselves, so they may better understand the world around them, and experience greater success in their collaborative efforts.
  • Enhancing students’ abilities to communicate with mutual respect across differences.
  • Raising awareness about the resources available to students when they experience or witness bias.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

There are misconceptions that inclusion & belonging are only concerns of a small few in our community; this is simply untrue. While each of us has our own perspective on these values, people are often more – or less – effective in any environment depending on whether they feel like they belong, which is often determined by their interactions with others. For these reasons, inclusion & belonging are also community values and not solely personal ones.

Another misconception about these values and the efforts to promote them across campus is that they only address the needs and concerns of people from historically marginalized communities. While the concerns of these communities are critical to any effort to promote greater inclusion, the concerns of everyone on this campus are central to this project and the skills (leadership, communication, etc.) gained through these efforts are essential for anyone’s success.

In addition, building a more inclusive campus, with spaces where you can hear from diverse perspectives, will lead to better learning environments inside and outside of the classroom.

It is true that each of us comes to the conversation about inclusion & belonging with a unique perspective and set of experiences. Some of us are well-versed in these concepts and have even led initiatives to promote greater inclusion in our home communities or schools. For others of us, these are new, and perhaps uncomfortable, ideas. We designed this Initiative knowing that people with varying levels of fluency on these topics would participate.

For example, the Initiative offers four video collections, each tailored to a different interest and experience level. Of course, direct engagement on these issues is valuable, so if you participate in a workshop, we encourage you to be in dialogue with your peers across differences, including varying levels of knowledge and experience. This type of communication is at the heart of inclusion & belonging.

You need to complete only one option to fulfill your requirement, and you can choose the options and topics that appeal to you most. If you want to do more, that’s great! You may complete as many options as you wish.

Learn more about all the options. 

You must complete both the Sexual Respect and Inclusion & Belonging components of the Community Citizenship Initiative. Upon successful completion of each module, you will receive a confirmation email.

Please note: Depending on which option you take, the confirmation email may take up to two business days.

The pre-orientation tutorial introduces policies, values and resources at the University. This Initiative asks us to more deeply reflect on the values of inclusion, belonging and community citizenship and to consider how they our impact daily encounters across the University.

Disability Services can provide accommodations for registered students to fulfill participation requirements. If you need disability accommodations, please send your request to [email protected]. Please allow at least five days to arrange for sign language interpreters or CART services.

University Life offers several ways for you to get involved on campus and promote greater inclusion & belonging.

In addition, your school may have a diversity committee or student organization focused on these issues that you can join. Ask your Dean of Students for more information. You could also start an organization within your school or through the Interschool Governing Board, or host events and conversations about what inclusion and belonging mean and how we can help promote those values.

Additionally, University Life invites students to apply for the Social Justice Mini-Grant Program and share innovative ideas to address social injustices, including efforts to bring awareness to racial, economic, accessibility and educational inequities.

Yes. Perhaps you even disagreed with some of what was presented. That’s perfectly fine, too. The point isn’t that we all agree, but rather that we consider the points of view and experiences of those who are different from us; that we learn how to listen; that we take the time to think about issues like diversity, equity and inclusion; and, that we think about what kind of community we want to be a part of, and then engage in robust conversations with others about those ideas.

If you haven’t already begun to think about your perspective on these issues, it's a good idea to begin. This Initiative is meant to help you start – or continue – that journey.

  • Active Listening: 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.
  • Awareness building: 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 those 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 before engaging in more sensitive topics; however, even after trust has been built, people may not want to share information about their experiences and/or identities. It is important that you respect people’s boundaries and find other ways to get the information you seek (e.g. books, films, classes, etc.).
  • Interrupting exclusion: 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 was instead 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 a 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.
  • Self-care and apologies: 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 impacted 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 throughout our lives.

Experiencing a sense of belonging helps us all realize our potential at Columbia and beyond. We all have the ability and responsibility to support an ethic of care and mutual respect in our shared community, especially amidst our many differences.

It’s great that you’re asking this question. We hope that the insights you gained through your participation stay with you well beyond your time at Columbia. After your participation, you can apply these concepts by:

  • Actively seeking out opportunities to learn more (read books and articles and attend events)
  • Having conversations with your peers, family members and other community members
  • Getting involved in community efforts
  • Becoming an active listener
  • Building a supportive network
  • Starting an organization within your school or through the Interschool Governing Board.

Yes. Bias incidents can be reported through the University’s bias reporting process. For more information about where and how to report bias, please contact your school’s Dean of Students.

Additional Resources on Campus

  • Columbia’s commitment to diversity is supported by a variety of offices and initiatives. See the full list.
  • Should you experience bias or have questions and need to speak to someone, please visit your school's Dean of Students.
  • For additional information, please write to [email protected].