Not all of us have had the opportunity to truly experience different cultures before coming to Ann Arbor. Sure, we have worked hard to prepare ourselves for college, but when it comes to diversity, many people’s first time living with someone of a different faith or political ideology happens at the University. It is this embrace of diversity of thoughts and excellence, that makes it so great to be a part of such an amazing team of scholars, athletes and artists. Diversity is the most important part of our education, and the most important component of our pride in the Block ‘M.’
It’s not the world-class professors or amazing classmates who make the University great, but rather their coexistence and collaboration that define the Michigan difference. To illustrate, look first at our curriculum.
As students, all of us enjoy an extraordinary academic playground at the University. The LSA curriculum requirements are the perfect example of the important role diversity plays in academic excellence. Many people bemoan the need to complete distribution requirements and the need to experience all aspects of LSA. Yet, the breadth of our education is the real strength of our degrees. There are other liberal arts colleges in America, that have courses taught by similarly credentialed faculty to our own. However, there is no other College of Literature, Science and the Arts. There is no other space at any institution, that motivates students to grapple with natural science, social science, humanities and other topics in an attempt to balance undergraduates’ education quite the way the University does. So get excited about taking that changing atmosphere class, and don’t be scared by a poetry course. The variety is good for us.
Yet the University is more than a diverse selection of seminars and lectures. It’s not just the variety infused in our education, but the uniqueness of our experiences outside the classroom that makes the University so special. Many of us bring different backgrounds and different approaches to decision making to the table. This often causes conflict, and it can cause us to push each other in opposite directions. However, this conflict mimics the larger conversation of Michigan and the United States. Debating issues related to campus affairs, performing research to prove generalizable theories and working through political disagreements prepares us for the real world, and will help us with problems we cannot even imagine at this stage in our lives.
These disagreements most frequently manifest themselves in the student organizations. Whether working to increase the graduation rates of minorities, hosting events like the Latin@ Cultural Show or organizing volunteers for Greek Service Day, the reason for the strength of a group is the multitude of opinions about how to get the job done.
More than the diversity of beliefs, opinions and views that matter to our 1,200 plus student organizations on campus, it’s the summation of all our individual organizations working together that advances the mission of the University, and demonstrates the importance of a Michigan education. This means that individually we do not always need to place first in all we do to remain “the Victors.” Take the Athletic Department for example. Though national championships are great signs of athletic excellence across the nation, it’s the entire department that demonstrates our influence in collegiate athletics. It’s not just football, but softball, track and field and volleyball which powerfully represent the Block ‘M.’ Combine those with conference championships for the men’s swimming and diving team and men’s ice hockey team, in addition to the first Big Ten Championship for the men’s soccer team, and it’s clear we have an outstanding Athletic Department — especially outside revenue-generating sports, even when Michigan doesn’t win the national title.
In addition to the success of South Campus, this University has become a safe space for LGBT students. We have an award-winning daily newspaper, a men’s glee club that will share its talent with Cuba this summer and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center that defends the rights of all students. All these aspects contribute to our education at Michigan. All are necessary for the creation of the next generation Michigan men and women.
The diversity in our curriculum supports the dynamic nature of our understanding and our experiences away from our courses. Individually, our programs are good: We’re top 20 or top 10 in almost everything. But what makes us the Leaders and the Best is the combination of all the academic-departments, sports teams, arts groups, student governments, faculty, students and staff providing an uncommon education for us common men and women. So go to a women’s basketball game, learn from and appreciate ROTC students, fight back against famine and poverty in Africa, attend events put on by your hall’s multicultural council and interact with the Muslim Students’ Association or a community other than your own. Get involved and take pride in being a part of the team, the team, the team.
Jeff Wojcik is the LSA-SG academic relations officer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.