Gustavus Adolphus College has a long history of diversity, one that extends as far back as the 1870s when the College began debating whether the institution should remain an American college that was predominantly Swedish. The college decided to continue with its Swedish and Lutheran heritage but began examining ways it could be more diverse.
In 1989, President John S. Kendall commissioned Dr. Joyce Parks to evaluate the climate for diversity and organized several task forces to review and enhance inclusion for underrepresented students on campus. The Parks report called for more diversity and inclusion on campus, noting that the majority of the historically underserved students at Gustavus at the time were Black Americans. Today, the historically underserved students at Gustavus come from all ethnic, racial, sexual, religious, class, and national backgrounds, with the majority being Hmong, Latino/Latina, and Black American students.
In 1990, Gustavus was awarded the McKnight Grant which was used to aid multicultural programs such as the week long orientation for American minorities and the creation of the position for Director of Multicultural programs. In the Spring of 1999, the College opened the Diversity Center in the Campus Center. Since then, the Diversity Center has helped organize multiple events throughout the year to unite students and help them understand that diversity is “everything that we are and everything that we are not.”