With more than 25,000 students from across the United States and 83 other countries, UNC Charlotte is one of Charlotte’s largest and most diverse communities. Exposure to this large, diverse, multicultural community is often a new experience for students. Indeed 85% of freshmen come to UNC Charlotte from cities with populations smaller than 100,000 residents. Surveys of freshman indicate that they are drawn to Charlotte because of the size, location, good weather, and good employment opportunities. As many UNC Charlotte students hope to stay in Charlotte after graduation, it is critical they embrace Charlotte’s increasing diversity by increasing opportunities for greater access, equity, and inclusion. A foundational experience to embracing diversity is developing relationships with persons across racial, cultural, or religious differences.
Yet, we know that barriers exist in Charlotte to developing relationships across differences. In a 2001 study conducted by Harvard professor Robert Putnam[i], Charlotte ranked 39th out of 40 in levels of social and interracial trust. Crossroads Charlotte, a community-based initiative comprising over 50 organizations, was organized to build social trust by expanding access, equity, and inclusion throughout Charlotte.
As a response to Crossroads Charlotte and as a way of strengthening access, equity, and inclusion on campus, UNC Charlotte created the UNC Charlotte Crossroads Program. The mission of the program is to develop tomorrow’s leaders across disciplines to be informed and engaged citizens in addressing Charlotte’s social, cultural, educational, and political challenges.
The UNC Charlotte Crossroads Charlotte program has adopted four major goals:
- To introduce themes of access, inclusion, equity, and trust into the curriculum.
- To connect UNC Charlotte’s extensive research resources to address issues of access, inclusion, equity, and trust within Charlotte.
- To engage students and faculty in the civic life of Charlotte by creating service learning opportunities designed to reduce barriers to access, inclusion, equity, and trust.
- To support diversity initiatives on campus.
Through this initiative, UNC Charlotte Crossroads is fostering a commitment to diversity, social problem solving, and community engagement within the University community. Dr. Susan B. Harden serves as program coordinator. For her leadership, she was awarded the 2009 Civic Engagement Professional of the Year by the North Carolina Campus Compact. For more information about UNC Charlotte Crossroads, contact Dr. Harden at email@example.com.
[i] Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone, (Simon & Schuster, 2000).