The Lack of Diversity at BYU
Updated: Mar 27, 2019
Do you know what it's like to be a minority at BYU? When I eagerly hopped off the plane from D.C. and into Provo, Utah, I had no idea. I began my first semester with a strong desire to make the most of it. Education had always been my escape from my circumstances at home and I couldn’t wait to take control of the next few years of my life.
After working at Aeropostale, I quickly realized business was where I needed to be. Initially, I felt inclined to study sales and marketing but I decided to major in Finance to step out of my comfort zone. The BYU Marriott School did exactly what I expected it to do- it challenged me. Three years later, I graduated early and was offered a full-time position at Google as an Associate Account Strategist. What else could I have hoped to gain from my experience at BYU?
As grateful as I am for the education I received, there was always one thing missing. I dreamt of friends who could understand my background. I dreamt of hearing other voices that called different cultures part of their own. Although the world can be quick to point fingers, I don’t blame BYU for the lack of diversity on its campus. The problem lies among the pool of minority candidates that may or may not be qualified to attend such a high-caliber university. This minority pool is small and often times, there are not enough candidates to select from. Instead of lowering standards to increase diversity statistics, we must look to inspire minority youth to believe they can overcome their circumstances and succeed.
My experience at BYU was shaped by the notably small population of diverse individuals I met there. They gave me a sense of connection to the university when it would have been easy to feel like an outsider. While I loved every second of my time at BYU, I am not afraid to say that there is more that we could do.
Here is what it’s like to be a diverse student at BYU:
You’re not alone. But it feels like it. Although I have always felt very comfortable in my own skin, walking down the beautiful steps of the Marriott School and not seeing another student with my similar skin complexion confused me. Why was it just me? Where were the minorities? While I loved and felt supported by all my caucasian friends, there was always an undeniable barrier between how they saw me and my background. I longed for those who could understand the struggle of being an ethnic person in a world where being ethnic wasn’t always easy. At first, I felt as though I was alone but quickly realized I wasn’t. Through continuously embracing those around me, I received the same treatment in return.
YOU earned it. Not your gender or ethnicity. Throughout my entire life, especially when being admitted to top universities or receiving job offers, I overheard people claim that my victories were achieved by my gender or ethnicity. Sometimes it hurt for my accomplishments to be diminished due to the color of my skin but other times, I remembered that my diversity added to my intelligence and was not overpowered it. No, I did not earn an internship because I am a woman or hispanic. I got that internship because I qualified and my experiences added a different perspective to the team. I developed this confidence through the constant encouragement of my brothers. My victories are earned and that is something no one could or will ever take away from me.
Be a teacher. You’re well-trained. Though many people don’t realize what they’re saying, there are many words that are extremely offensive toward different ethnicities and cultures. As a rule of thumb, always assume good intentions. Many people may not know that just because someone speaks Spanish or looks a certain way, doesn’t mean they’re Mexican. Instead, this person is better described as “Hispanic” or “of Latin descent.” There will be times where feeling extremely offended will be easy. Fight this feeling and instead of sharing your mind, share your experiences. You know more about your culture than others do. Teach them. If you don’t help them, who will?
You have a secret weapon. Use it. Do you know who you are? Without even trying, your perspective is irreplaceable. It is a product of your culture, the people you have interacted with, and your personal life experiences. Everyone has a different perspective but yours is especially valuable. As an individual who sees the world with colorful lenses, you have something to offer that others don’t. Use this secret weapon in the classroom, within group projects, during interviews, and in everyday conversation. Your ideas are brilliant and they should be shared.
Now what can you do?
Embrace diversity! Ask your visibly diverse classmates about their lives, their cultures, and their aspirations. Showcasing a genuine desire to learn about our differences makes us feel embraced. Instead of sticking to those who look like you, reach out to those who don’t. Choosing different people over those who you are used to will add more light to your life than you might expect. I promise that by embracing diversity, your mind will be opened and you will be able to more easily love those around you.
“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
- Verna Myers
Diversity is one of the most beautiful aspects of our world. The Lord made man in His own image, yet we are not the same. We are all unique pieces of our Heavenly Father and together, we can learn to be more understanding, loving, and accepting of each other’s differences.