Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Diversity numbers up, but hard work remains

DU’s portrait includes more faces of color than ever before. 

Of 1,142 first-year, first-time students enrolled this fall, 17.8 percent are students of color — up from 13.2 percent last year. Of 92 new faculty members, 17.4 percent are people of color. 

“Diversity is one of our most important objectives — a measure of the excellence of our intellectual environment — and we’re making good progress,” Chancellor Robert Coombe said in his Sept. 29 Convocation speech. 

But while administrators are celebrating DU’s increased diversity, they acknowledge that more progress must be made. The wave of new minority students only slightly increased DU’s total percentage of undergraduate students of color, from 15.5 percent at the end of the 2005–06 academic year to 15.6 percent at the start of 2006–07. 

By comparison, minority representation at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a school where many prospective DU students also apply, is 15 percent. 

DU’s total minority faculty headcount saw a greater impact from this year’s new hires, rising from 11.8 percent in fall 2005 to 13.3 percent this fall. 

DU administrators say they are proud of the University’s deep commitment to diversity. They attribute the increased number of students and faculty of color to a University-wide effort to expand student and faculty applicant pools and create a welcoming campus climate by adding resources, programs and personnel aimed at diversity. 

“There’s been a lot of hard work from across the campus,” says Provost Gregg Kvistad. “And there’s more hard work that follows to keep this momentum going.” 

Much of that hard work has come on the admission front under Vice Chancellor Tom Willoughby, who during his first week on the job, appointed a diversity officer and put a plan in place to expand DU’s applicant pool. He shifted resources and strategies to reach a broader market, increasing direct marketing to high school sophomores and minority students. In just two years, the number of total applications has increased by 29 percent, and direct marketing responses have grown from 3 percent to 18 percent. Willoughby also began offering travel scholarships to economically disadvantaged students for campus visits. The small stipend allows them to experience the campus climate for themselves. 

“We wanted to display what’s real here,” Willoughby says. 

Meanwhile, diversity and equal opportunity Director Susan Lee and DU’s Center for Multicultural Excellence founded the Campus Climate Council to immediately respond to diversity issues. 

The center, headed by Associate Provost Jesus Trevino, hosts an annual diversity retreat to welcome students and faculty of color and explore diversity issues, an annual diversity summit to discuss local and national issues, and numerous workshops aimed at bringing together students of different racial, cultural, religious and sexual identities. 

Assistant Provost Fernando Guzman actively recruits faculty of color through a National Summer Institute that brings ethnic minority and women doctoral students to DU to discuss issues related to university hiring and tenure. He administers workshops on master’s and doctoral degree completion strategies, advises faculty search committees and maintains a nationwide network of minority doctoral students. 

Trevino and Guzman say their work has expanded beyond the boundaries of their office to nearly every department. Deans are setting up diversity committees, schools are hiring diversity officers and DU administrators continue to push toward a goal of 20 percent minority undergraduate enrollment by 2008, according to Kvistad. 

But it’s not the number that’s most important, Kvistad says. 

Instead, he says, it’s about the excellence achieved from a blending of ethnicities, religions, genders, nationalities and philosophies working and thinking together. 

“It’s pretty clear that we have a better environment for working and learning when our community is diverse,” he says.  

Editor’s note: Data reported are for domestic minorities.

Comments are closed.