20 Why It Matters: Community and Diversity

Sonji Nicholas

Why learn about community and diversity?

When we explore relationships between people and groups of people, interdependence may well be one of the most meaningful words in the English language. It’s meaningful because it speaks to the importance of connecting with others and maintaining viable relationships.

Lines of dancers in an outdoor performance, arms placed around one another's shoulders. They are backlit in waves of orange, green, and blueInterdependence is defined as the mutual reliance, or mutual dependence, between two or more people or groups. “In an interdependent relationship, participants may be emotionally, economically, ecologically, and/or morally reliant on and responsible to each other.”[1]

In interdependent relationships, mutual support is offered and gains are shared for the enrichment of all.

Interdependence in College

Interdependence is valuable in college because it contributes to your success as a student. When you feel comfortable with interdependence, for example, you may be more likely to ask a friend to help you with a class project. You may also be more likely to offer that same help to someone else. You may be more inclined to visit a faculty member during office hours. You may be more likely to attend the Academic Support Center for help with a difficult subject. Perhaps you would visit the Career Services Office.  Overall, when you have a sense of interdependence, you cultivate support networks for yourself, and you help others too. Interdependence is a win-win relationship.

The following table, which differentiates between student success and student struggle, illustrates how interdependence can play a beneficial role in college life.

Student Interdependence and Struggle/Success
Interdependence Struggle Mode Interdependence Success Mode
Students in struggle mode maintain a stance of dependence, co-dependence, or perhaps dogged independence, but not interdependence. Students in success mode develop relationships that support themselves and support other people too.
Students in struggle mode may avoid cooperating with others in situations where the common good could be achieved. Students in success mode develop networks of friends, family members, professionals, and others as a support team.
Students in struggle mode may be reluctant to listen compassionately and may not attempt to understand the perspective of another person. Students in success mode actively and compassionately listen to others as an action of support; they demonstrate care and concern.


  1. "Interdependence." Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interdependence.


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Why It Matters: Community and Diversity Copyright © 2023 by Sonji Nicholas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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