Promoting diversity on a tight schedule

Collin Rutledge

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Traveling all around the country from one college to another, higher education scholar Dr. Terrell Strayhorn lives for traveling and telling his message.

Strayhorn gives about 175 talks a year. Last month, he gave more than a dozen talks.

The Martin Luther King Center hosted a talk Monday called “When Education Alone Isn’t Enough: Race and the Criminal Justice System in America.”

In addition to leading speaking engagements around the country, Strayhorn is also the director of the Center for Higher Education Enterprise at The Ohio State University.

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Strayhorn said his enthusiasm comes from educating others and his reward is when people tell him how well he has conveyed his ideas about things like diversity and the disenfranchisement of minorities.

“My work is ultimately all about the experiences of historically underrepresented … populations,” Strayhorn said.

When his research first began, Strayhorn focused mainly on black students. From there, Strayhorn said his focus moved to Latino, Native American, first generation and LGBT students, and eventually to all students.

Strayhorn said he was always curious about the statistics of education in different groups of people.

“In Graduate school I started thinking about charts, books and presentations where one bar would be high and another would be low,” Strayhorn said. “I remember always being curious on why is the bar bigger for other groups, and there is always a lower bar for black Americans.”

Without much information to explain the data, Strayhorn decided someone needed to research the cause.

Additionally, Strayhorn wondered if another variable affected this particular demographic.

Strayhorn said he wants students and others to appreciate race more in this country, be able to identify their own stereotypes and how they affect people in society.

The power to impact a lot of people is one of the things that keeps Strayhorn motivated, he said.

“I keep doing it because I love research, I love meeting cool students and being at cool places,” Strayhorn said. “The idea of traveling the country and being able to speak to a lot of different audiences is pretty cool.”

Strayhorn said it can be tough to balance wearing multiple hats as a professor, speaker and father.

“One of the main reasons why I keep doing it is that, despite all the places I’ve been, and all of the books I’ve written, and all of the articles I’ve written, we still have problems in this country, this great country,” Strayhorn said.

Fixing every problem with diversity on college campuses could be impossible, but Strayhorn said he wants to acknowledge and fix as many as he can.

“Stereotypes and those racial prejudices get in the way of how we interact with one another,” Strayhorn said.