The students that attend Pacific University come from nearly every state in America and more than 20 different countries worldwide. In a school driven by different cultures and ethnicities exposure to diversity on campus should be a given, yet, this is not the case, according to senior Lishao Chen.
Chen came to Pacific eager to attend a university that promised to embrace a rich diversity of ideas, peoples and cultures. Though these words were written in Pacific’s admission statement, when Chen first arrived on campus she said she “did not feel a sense of belonging.”
It was Chen’s experience of subtle discrimination by university students and faculty that inspired her senior capstone project, titled “First Generation and Low Income Students: How Racial Identity Influences College Experience and Sense of Belonging,” in which she elaborated on Pacific’s lack of cultural awareness.
During her presentation, Chen spoke about the challenges minority ethnic groups face as first generation college students and how Pacific lacks the resources to provide an inclusive environment for them. To resolve this problem, Chen suggested a mandatory training for all Pacific faculty that would teach them how to respond to and interact with minority groups.
She also proposed programs for first generation students which could guide them through the financial, academic and emotional aspects of college.