Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the College of Charleston

Image provided by the College of Charleston.

You’re a Black student at the College of Charleston, a minority on a campus of 10,000 students, and you need a haircut. Where do you go? The barbers and stylists patronized by your white classmates might not be adept at cutting your hair.

You want to find other Black students who share your life experiences and understand what it means to be the only person who looks like you in a class, in your room or suite, or in a student club.

The good news is, College of Charleston has a place for you. The school even has a barbershop on campus specifically aimed at supporting minority students. Not only are underrepresented students supported through a host of programs helping them succeed academically and socially, the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has a home on campus that serves as a hub for initiatives aimed at increasing diversity and ensuring the success of underserved students.

Soon after his arrival on campus, Andrew Hsu, the 23rd president of the College of Charleston and the first person of color in the school’s history, made sure that DEI had a central place in the formation of the college’s10-year strategic plan. Diversity, equity and inclusion are a cross-cutting theme that binds the three main pillars of student success, academic distinction and employee success.

“These may be but small steps in the bigger journey of our institution,” says President Hsu, “however, each accomplishment represents meaningful progress and momentum in the College of Charleston’s desire to embody our core values of diversity, equity and inclusion. By taking these steps, both big and small, and by always striving to work together toward a shared understanding of each other, we, as a campus community – in the words of Black scholar W.E.B. Dubois – will ‘do great and beautiful things.’”

Recently, the College named a new Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Dr. Courtney Howard has a long and distinguished academic career, having most recently served as associate dean of the College’s School of Education.

A key element of her new job is to coordinate the many programs and initiatives serving underserved students by the departments and schools within the College of Charleston. The diversity office is also convening campus constituents to ensure they are meeting the needs of the campus community.

Among the programs on campus are the following:

SPECTRA – summer orientation for incoming students of color.

Multicultural Student Programs and Services – year-round programs for diverse students and a dedicated building on campus for gathering and studying.

Call Me MISTER – a statewide program that aims to increase diversity in the teaching profession, particularly by recruiting and supporting males of color. It offers mentoring, academic support and financial support. Many graduates have gone on to become principals and school administrators.

SC Alliance for Minority Participation – an enrichment program for minority STEM students to increase representation in math, science, technology and engineering professions.

1967 Legacy Program – Named for the year the College of Charleston first opened its doors to Black students, it is a scholarship program for academically high-performing minority students who have demonstrated a commitment to their communities as well. It aims to prepare Black students for life beyond college.

“We want all of our students to love their experience here,” Dr. Howard said. “For some, the demographics are similar to what they experienced in high school, and they are comfortable navigating the College. But for others, feeling a sense of belonging is more of a challenge. That’s why it is important that we offer programs and services to help underrepresented students be successful in the classroom and campus community.”

The College of Charleston is committed to providing a world-class experience to all its students both academically and socially. Increasing focus on enhancing and enriching diversity, equity and inclusion is transforming it into a place where all students can feel comfortable and enjoy the many benefits and exceptional opportunities that the College has to offer.