A Campus of Colors: The Value of Global Diversity

There’s a certain irreplaceable benefit we gain from being in diverse communities.  It helps us think more broadly, consider opinions other than our own, and develop solutions to problems we may not have exposure to otherwise.  Here at Booth, our diversity is experienced in the variety of different perspectives, interests, and backgrounds of our students, faculty, and alumni, including our vast international community.

I myself am usually excited to tell people I was born outside of the United States.  It’s a distinguishing factor, a characteristic that makes me unique.  It has always helped add value in my ability to engage and connect with peers.  In fact, it has become a deep source of pride because my multi-cultural upbringing is very much attributable to who I am as a person.

That is something the Booth community values, but despite the sanctuary that Booth provides as a melting pot of cultures, the climate in today’s world has prompted me to rethink my position on readily sharing the information above.  I now pause when labeling myself anything but a 100% American.  Actually, as I’m typing this I even find the need to interject to let you know that I am, in fact a U.S. Citizen, and have been for many years.

Possibly the height of the movement we’ve seen in recent months was President Trump’s signing of an Executive Order on Immigration that temporarily banned travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries into the United States.  This order effectively targets nations deemed to be potential sources of terrorism (Note: a determination of constitutionality of this ruling is currently making its way through our courts system).

I’ve grappled with writing about this topic for some time.  I truly understand and appreciate the need for protection and safety of our borders.  There is also a level of disappointment I feel as someone who’s seen firsthand the great many opportunities this country affords.  Then I consider the delicacy of commenting on something you think you understand while sitting a safe distance from those who suffer through actual experiences.

But as so often happens at Booth, I was empowered by the strength of the community around me.  A friend encouraged me to pursue my thoughts because part of the deal here is our belief in inquiry and open dialogue.  Shortly following, on a much more macro level, I read the words of President Zimmer on behalf of the University of Chicago and felt further inspired.

I realized part of my conflict of feelings was born from experiences in diverse environments for many years, and observing the positive resulting impact. This has maybe never proven to be truer than during my time at Booth.  While it has certainly been a fortuitous set of circumstances, it’s also helped shape a defined vision for what I believe to be our greatest strength.

I’ve gained an even deeper appreciation for the diversity at this school.  Stand around in a group of five and chances are multiple ethnicities, languages, and religions will be represented.  Work on an assignment together and you’ll see how different schools of thought produce collaborative, complex, and comprehensive answers.  Scan the Booth website and you’ll find campuses in Chicago, London, and Hong Kong.

I won’t rehash statistics about the validity or rationale of the Executive Order debate.  This isn’t the time or the place (that’d be Twitter, literally whenever you log on).  But make no mistake about the international flavor that has come to define this program.

And since we are notorious for our data-driven approach, here are some numbers that may be relevant:

  • 35% of the Class of 2017 are foreign nationals, representing 55 countries
  • 50% of Full-Time students were born outside the US
  • 46% of the esteemed Booth faculty are also from abroad
  • Booth’s global network includes 51,000 alumni spanning an incredible 108 countries
  • Our exchange program offers students the ability to study at 33 schools across 21 countries

This school is built upon diversity and inclusion and has benefitted greatly from that mindset.  That remains as true today as it did four weeks ago.  At Booth, we are committed to growing our global presence and creating a fostering and hospitable environment for all.  We’ve recognized that to be truly a mutually advantageous relationship.

On a broader perspective, for hundreds of years, the United States has welcomed millions of people to take part in the American Dream.  Those decisions have allowed us to make leaps in science, technology, and economics that have boosted us into new ages of innovation and discovery.

I was once an immigrant and I’ve had a chance to prosper.  I’m sure others would be thankful to continue receiving that opportunity.

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