Is it problematic that many diversity grants and scholarships essentially ask students to compete for money by highlighting how they are different or exotic when compared to a perceived mainstream college demographic?

Obviously it's a positive thing to have these grants and scholarships, but is there a better way to offer them? Is there a risk that they will reinforce a sense of difference or otherness among applicants?

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Amy McElroy, Former Attorney, Writer, Editor, parent of a junior high and high school student

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I think the expert above who described the goal of an inclusive campus nailed the answer to this question. It's not merely about being "different"--and certainly not "exotic"--it's about making sure that all groups people are represented on college campuses for two reasons. First, all people should have a chance to earn an opportunity to go to college. If their economic or life circumstances put them at a disadvantage, yet they showed effort to overcome those odds, colleges should consider this in awarding scholarships that make college possible for these students. Second everyone on campus benefits from having a diverse campus and learning from people from all kinds of backgrounds and people who are unlike them. That's a huge part of college.

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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It does worry me when affirmative action is used in a way that "others" students instead of celebrating diversity. I do see your concern here, and I am not sure there is one good answer to this. Here's what I do know: many groups have been marginalized by our education system, and it is time to undo that damage. Schools are approaching this power dynamic in different ways as they attempt to be welcoming to students of all backgrounds. One way to approach this issue is to focus on socioeconomic diversity instead of racial diversity, though that does work to different ends. Such a focus does focus on "otherness" in a different way, but it does seem to lead less to racial identity (the "exotic" that you mention in your concern) and more toward something that is more measurable. This is an issue all of education needs to keep working on as we move toward more inclusive campuses.

Chelsea L. Dixon, M.S., M.A.T, Author. Speaker. CEO.

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In my opinion, there is something to be celebrated about the diverse cultures, races, ethnicities, etc. that exist and make up our country. Unfortunately, these same diversities are sometimes viewed as unfavorable and with a sense of difference or otherness not only amongst students, faculty and staff on our college campuses, but by society at large.

These students will inevitably be judged as being “different” or “exotic” as soon as they step foot on the majority of our colleges and universities because this is what society is constantly reinforcing.

What we need to do as a society is come to understand that being “different” or “exotic” is not synonymous with being “less than” or “inferior”. Until we can do that, I think the perception of these grants and scholarships by the mainstream demographic will be unchanged.

M. Erez Kats, Seattle Language Arts Teacher, Author, and Artist

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I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, even though it does tend to make these students seem different from the majority of students, and could make them stand out from the crowd on campus. But when seeking a scholarship, are you really that concerned about that? Your primary purpose, I assume, is getting $$ to help you with your studies. You already know what race or ethnicity you belong to, and there isn't much you can do to change that, so you may as well take advantage of who you are or where you are from. There are many different reasons why college campuses seek to have a diverse student body, and most likely, the easiest way for them to diversify and fill these needs or quotas is to find scholarship students. I don't believe their intent is to pigeon-hole students or exploit them for their being different, but rather to celebrate it. You may potentially find individual students who are opposed to this type of exposure or financial gain, but I would think this would likely not represent the majority, only a small minority opinion. It might help one deal with these issues later in life in the workforce as well, because racial profiling or discrimination certainly exists there, and there will likely always be some type of opposition in race, whether large or small. Therefore college could be a great training ground for this, and a wonderful opportunity to test how this cultural interaction works for you or for any students coming from these exotic or minority cultures.

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