NEW DELHI – Sangeeta Kamat, an education professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, presented research on creating diverse and equitable campuses at Inclusive Universities: Linking Equity, Diversity and Excellence for the 21st Century, an international symposium and report launch held in New Delhi, India, on Feb. 12. Kamat was the principal investigator on the joint research project between UMass Amherst and the KSP Women’s Studies Center at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU).
The Inclusive Universities research, sponsored by the U.S. India Education Foundation, emphasizes the importance of making higher education accessible to all in order to keep up with the shifting demographics of India’s college-age population of 16- to 25-year-olds. It notes that the student population today is more diverse among caste, class and linguistic background than in the history of higher education in India. More than half of the students are the first in their family to attend college and are from poor or low-income families, it says.
The study underscores the importance of understanding how diversity exists within the campus and classroom, how it affects students from different backgrounds and how it influences their behavior and perceptions of other students.
“The report release is groundbreaking because it was one of the first climate studies done in an Indian universities building on the foundational work that has been done in the states led by Dr. Sylvia Hurtado,” says Associate Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Enobong (Anna) Branch, who attended the symposium. “The conference and report are important moments for UMass and our partners on this project as we documented challenges and now continue to work together on solutions.”
At the symposium, administrators, faculty and research teams from UMass Amherst and SPPU discussed campus climate theory, research and application and compared their understanding of issues of equity and inclusion in universities in the U.S. and India.
Speakers included officials from UMass Amherst, such as Kamat, Branch, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy, College of Education Dean Cynthia Gerstl-Pepin, and professor of education Ximena Zuniga; and delegates from SPPU, such as director of the KSP Women’s Studies Center Anagha Tambe; and Vice Chancellor Nitin Karmalkar.
“Like our peer institutions, we realize the critical importance of fostering a campus culture that supports the potential excellence of every member of our community,” Subbaswamy said during a speech at the symposium. “By embracing all the people, ideas and perspectives available to us, we create a richer and stronger learning and working environment. Fostering our differences truly strengthens our ability to identify new solutions and improve every facet of university life.”