Building Diversity & Inclusion In Academia

In a flattening world with compressed populations, organizations from corporations to colleges and universities strive to attract individuals from around the globe. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t, its success depending on the culture surrounding it.

As a college or university, how is your multicultural environment promoted both externally and internally once we get past the viewbooks and websites portraying young people from various countries? Hundreds of colleges and universities have a global presence within multiple countries and stress acquisition, but not much retention.


One important question asked of global companies and schools is this: Do you want to promote yourself as an American-based entity operating in foreign countries, or do you want your satellites to appear local to that population? In other words, is your brand portrayed as American or global? How do you bridge multiple cultures and what do you do to appeal to local populations? When in Rome, do you do as the Italians do or do you speak exclusively English to the Italian population? Are you sensitive to cultural color palettes and the ways words are strung together that might not translate well across the oceans? Assumptions make tasks easy; educating through assimilation takes substantial work that pays off over time.

Throughout my career as owner of Barnett Group, a branding, design and marketing company, I must admit that the great majority of my clients were rarely communicating to their global workforce in a way that promoted a holistic community. I once spoke to an audience of a major global technology company about how to engage their clients and employees; until then, they hadn’t a clue that this need even existed. One particular client of mine strives to do this through a company microsite; we work with them to improve it every year, developing more and more ideas for engaging their entire workforce. And it’s worked! Many of their 15,000 employees share their family ties, personal lives and interests to the point where friendships have developed through social media, and a belonging has developed within the company. Cultural lines have been broken; employees look forward to the annual updates and participating on the site.

Many schools tout their global student body and multicultural curricula, and stress attracting students from all countries. But a very small percentage work just as hard to retain these students by bridging commonalities and engaging them as a community.

I’ve often addressed “speaking the same language.” This usually refers to marketing directors and managers of corporations who wear a single hat and rarely show interest in what their co-workers are doing to strengthen their brand. The result is mixed messages and, often, confusion. Thinking and building diversity in academia is very similar. While every marketing and admissions director is typically charged with “appeal and attract,” how many go the extra step to “retain and engage?” This is another critical venue for building your brand, and, indeed, identifying your name as a truly national and global institution.

Barnett Group has partnered with many colleges and universities, health-care providers, and Fortune 200 companies to build and strengthen their brands, whether domestic or global in scope. We can offer you expertise in bridging cultures, and can help you determine strategies in marketing your brand to acquire and engage your customers.