Community College, Council Announce Partnership on DiversityNWA Guide

NorthWest Arkansas Community College and the Northwest Arkansas Council announced Wednesday that they are collaborating on a new website to promote the region’s cultural amenities, services and select programs.

Oversight of the DiversityNWA website will be provided by the Council’s Diversity Resource Guide Task Force and students at the community college will maintain its content. Care Foundation, a fund of Endeavor Foundation, provided financial support to the project.

Establishing the website goes toward achieving one of the objectives in the Greater Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy, a five-year strategic plan unveiled in January 2011. The objective in the plan is to “promote racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity in Northwest Arkansas and support quality of life enhancements by developing amenities that appeal to a variety of demographic groups.” Letting people know about those amenities is part of achieving that goal.

Northwest Arkansas businesses wanted a central website to highlight the region’s growing number of businesses, services and events available to the area’s ethnic populations. Having those businesses and letting people who live elsewhere know they exist is important to recruiting professional talent to Northwest Arkansas.

“When I began to work in diversity, one of the first things I heard was that people who had moved to this region had a hard time finding services and community organizations that made them feel at home, such as places of worship where they felt comfortable, or hairdressers who had the skills to do their hair,” said Kathryn Birkhead, director for diversity and inclusion at NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville. “This guide can help with that. Itis not only important to our current residents, but it’s important for those who are considering a move to this region.”

The website will be expanded over the next several weeks into a useful directory of the region’s ethnic and cultural amenities that include restaurants, churches, salons, stores, nightlife venues, fraternities and sororities. It also includes cultural events.

“One thing we know already is the information on this regional website will grow markedly in time,” said Kim Davis, a coordinator of the resource guide. “We didn’t attempt to put it all here right from the start because we want people to become engaged in this process and to help us build on what’s already here. It’s the start of what will be an excellent resource.

“With new churches and restaurants and events in our fast-growing region, we know this website is one that constantly will be evolving.”

Research suggests there’s no website quite like it in the U.S.

While many of the nation’s colleges and universities have diversity resource guides to serve their campus populations and there are websites in some cities to serve one ethnic group, the Northwest Arkansas Diversity Task Force found no example of an online diversity resource guide that’s intended to serve an entire region that crosses all cultural boundaries.

The creation of the regional diversity resource guide is the latest example of the Northwest Arkansas Council’s broad, ongoing collaboration with colleges and universities in the area.

Among the college-related projects is Graduate NWA, a program and website involving six regional colleges and universities that's meant to provide information to individuals interested in returning to college to complete an associate's or bachelor's degree.