The effects of college diversity experiences on student academic and democracy outcomes.

Authors: 
James Ernest Sirianni
Publication Year: 
2011
Publication name or Publisher: 
Stanford Digital Repository

Institutions of higher education claim they prepare their students to be leaders and positive contributors to society. In pursuit of these aims, institutions promote opportunities for diversity experiences among schoolmates. The legality of these claims has been challenged in court, and social science research on the effects of diversity experiences has played a pivotal role in shaping court rulings. Mixed results in previous studies and important unexamined questions in this research area prompt this examination of college diversity experiences. Classroom-based experiences, participation in diversity events, and the informal interactions students have with racially/ethnically dissimilar schoolmates are the foci of the study. Their relationships with democracy and academic outcomes are examined, and investigative emphasis is placed on the racial/ethnic heterogeneity of friendship groups and the relative position of students as outliers or majority-group members in primarily racially/ethnically homogeneous friendship groups. In addition to analyses of the full sample of University of Michigan students, analyses are performed on students based on their primary racial/ethnic identification and their status as racial/ethnic outliers or majority-group members. The results suggest that the three types of college diversity experiences benefit students. They are orthogonal to student outcomes for Asian-Americans, but significant positive relationships are seen across the analyses of White and Underrepresented Minority student groups. Outliers appear to benefit from diversity experiences in fewer ways than majority-group members, but the results are equivocal due to a statistical power issue. Implications for the research community are discussed.