Richard Judy’s and Jane Lommel’s report, 21st Century Workforce: Central Illinois, describes the expected demographic changes in central Illinois. The population is expected to age, out-migration is expected to continue, and population growth is expected to be slow. These conditions could paint a dismal picture for the greater Peoria area. Where will business and industry get qualified people to fill vacated positions? How can the community sustain itself without a vibrant economy? Part of the answer can be found in one of the study’s conclusions: “Diversity will move beyond a moral and legal obligation to become a requisite for business survival (p. 96).” In the future, central Illinois will have to compete to attract talented people from a variety of backgrounds.
As a community college, we recognize we have a role to play in making central Illinois attractive and welcoming to a diverse population. Although ICC has always been concerned about serving all constituents in our district, the college strengthened its commitment to minority populations in February 2001. At that time, ICC adopted a diversity initiative that states, “We will focus on creating a college that welcomes and celebrates diversity of all kinds. This diversity includes demographic diversity (race, gender, age, physical disability, ethnicity, background) as well as diversity in learning styles, ideas, education, and more.”
With this heightened focus, ICC has been active in investigating, assessing, and implementing changes that will develop a diverse student and employee body at the college. And although we haven’t reached our goal, we have made progress in diversifying our college.
For example, minority enrollment, in terms of number of students, grew 3.2 percent between the fall 2001 and 2002 semesters. The number of Hispanic and Asian students for the same time period grew 16 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively. And the number of disabled students attending ICC during fiscal year 2002 is at an all time high of 301, a 58 percent increase. Within our own workforce, we continue to recruit minority faculty and staff. Thirteen percent of our current full-time employees are minorities, and the number will continue to grow. Minorities represent nearly one-quarter of our administrator staff.
This growth in student enrollment has been due, in part, to a focused effort to recruit more minorities to the college. Special programs for first-generation students, services and support for students with disabilities, and a multi-cultural student organization provide additional help. Through the Youth For Understanding program and intercollegiate sports, ICC has been able to bring international students to the college. At the same time, the college supports diversity education, which is a college-wide program to help faculty and staff understand and be sensitive to the needs of people who are different from them.
So what? While many of these programs are still in their beginning stages, we know in the long run they’ll help encourage diversity within our college and ultimately within our community. We feel this focus is so important to the future of our community that we’ve included diversity as one of the eight priorities in our comprehensive plan, the Blueprint for the Future. This priority says ICC will, “Reach out to, attract, and retain a diverse student body and employee group and play a leadership role in community diversification initiatives.”
Within this priority we intend to reach out to under-served groups, help minority students and employees succeed, provide leadership in the community in promoting and supporting diversity, and ensure we consider diversity as we develop curriculum. By doing these things, we believe ICC can play an instrumental role in helping to make central Illinois an attractive and worthy location for minorities to learn, live, and work. IBI