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Defining Diversity

KSMU is brining you a month-long series called Diversity Dialogues as part of Black History Month. For our first program, we begin by defining diversity. KSMU's Emily Nash asked a variety of people to give their definition of the term.

Before we can start the discussion of diversity, it's important to get a grasp on what it means.

I asked a variety of students from Missouri State University what diversity means to them.

"My name is Will Jackson and I'm a Junior Psychology major. When I hear the word diversity its definitely a positive word. I think of it as something that's um good for people, good for any situation, if you have a diversity of something its more than one way to look at it or interpret it."

"My name is Nadia Kamanzi and I am a sophomore Political Science major. People of different races and ethnicities that look different I guess. It can be with their status, whether they are straight homosexual. Also, if they are handicap or impaired that makes you different as well"

"My name is Preveen and I am getting MBA. It's the way you perceive things. I perceive in a different way, see I look at a drink or food in a different way than you look at it. So it's the effects of you entwinement. You grew up in a different entwinement. I grew up in a different entwinement. He is different. The best thing though, the way you look at things, a few things I might like it. As few things I might pick up. The way I look at things you might like few and might pick it up. So that's diversity. It all gets along."

Reverend Larry Maddox is the president of the NAACP and told me his definition of diversity.

"Diversity in my own opinion would be a mixture of races and people of different background and culture."

Sociology Professor Tim Knapp and Missouri State Vice President of Multicultural Programs Charlotte Hardin offer an academic perspective on diversity.

"Diversity is really a singular term, but it really should be plural. Most people when they talk about Diversity talk about ethnic group diversity. But there is gender diversity, social class diversity, but most people think of the term diversity as applying to ethnic groups."

"People tend to generate automatically to visual things that are different, like, race and gender. And age. But there's religious diversity, sexual orientation. Geographic, you know you can be from a rural area, or a metropolitan area, and you know that's al about diversity. Age diversity."

"Part of the misconception is that diversity is something artificial. Or that has to be imposed. But in fact as I said a while ago, its happening, its occurring, and we just need to make sure that all the major institutions, locally and nationally become more diverse as the population itself becomes more diverse."

"I think that people tend to relate diversity in some cases to differences. Which, that's good. Differences, are not necessarily a bad thing. But while we are looking at the differences, we also find out if you look closely that there are, similarities between us."

"Studies have shown that more diverse groups are valuable in understanding community needs, and also in responding. It's sort of the idea that the more different perspectives you have within the group, the better able you are to come up with answers for a diverse problems. So if everybody in the group is alike, and thinks alike, its not a very effective problem solving group. But the more diverse it is, depending on how well people get along inside the group, the better they are able to define community and local problems, and to address them well."

McKayla Robbins, Mark Upham, and Chris Iacob (EYE-A-COBB) are fifth graders at Campbell Elementary. They also had some thoughts about diversity.

"Like some people are African, and some people are mixed and black. Some people have straight hair, some people have curly hair."

"Some people like to shop at the mall and the others like to play video games. Some people just stay home all day and do nothing, and others try to find a way to stay healthy and get exercise."

They told me why diversity is an important part of our lives.

"You get better friends if a lot of people are different, because, you guys could work as a team, and get more stuff accomplished together. But if you're all, if everyone was the same way and you guys were on a team, you would have the same weaknesses and strengths." (:16)

"Because if we were all the same this would be the most boringest planet in the world." (:05)

Join us next Wednesday as we continue our month long series, Diversity Dialogs on International Influences in the Ozarks.

I'm Emily Nash for KSMU News.