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Saint Mary’s diversity highest in five years

Katie Kohler | Thursday, September 14, 2006

The number of Saint Mary’s freshmen representing diverse multicultural backgrounds increased this year to the highest number – 10.1 percent – the College has seen in the past five years.

Though the College is interested in bringing in minority students, the initiative to increase diversity is more about retention and the three-year goal to increase diversity to 15 percent, Vice President for Enrollment Management Dan Meyer said.

“The institution is committed to increasing diversity representation,” he said. “Now Admissions needs to execute.”

Since 2001, the percentage of minority students has hovered between seven and 10 percent, with this year being the highest. The next highest percentage, 9.9 percent, was in 2001.

“The retention rate for minorities is roughly the same for the typical student, which is about 84 percent of freshmen returning for their sophomore year,” Meyer said.

Saint Mary’s has used different methods to attract more multicultural students, Meyer said, following up more persistently with interested students. Admissions also chose which high schools to visit more carefully, focusing on “higher diversity populations” in Chicago and northwestern Indiana.

“[Admissions] chose to visit schools with greater minority representation,” he said. “We got this information from their high school profiles.”

Of the new recruitment procedures and programs, Meyer said the most effective way to increase enrollment was by using multicultural students as tour guides and encouragement.

“When bringing minority students to campus, we want to make it a positive experience and use positive role models,” he said. “We made sure diversity students were represented on campus. We also tried to engage current diversity students in the recruitment of other multicultural students.”

Meyer said Saint Mary’s has initiated more multicultural-themed programs to benefit the entire student body.

“We are trying to work from a programming standpoint that allows the whole campus to diversify, not just multicultural students,” Meyer said.

Meyer also said he hopes faculty diversity will increase through the College’s new hiring policy.

“Our goal is to advertise in order to reach a large group and attract diverse professors as well,” he said. “When we want to bring a candidate to campus, we want a diverse pool of applicants before making our selection.”

Mona Bowe, associate director of Admissions at the College, is part of the minority population at Saint Mary’s.

“I personally am very excited about this recruitment goal [of 15 percent diversity in three years],” she said. “As a Latina myself, I greatly value the informal education I have received from years of working in intercultural environments.”

Sophomore Grace Fey, a member of the Diversity Student Leadership Committee, said she is pleased with the increase in diversity this year.

“The increased diversity is definitely a positive thing,” Fey said. “It will help us move forward toward a more unified [Saint Mary’s].”

The Diversity Student Leadership Committee consists of about 30 students who try to raise awareness about diversity. Last March, the group hosted a premiere conference for local minority high school seniors.

“This conference opened the door to Saint Mary’s for many minority students,” Fey said.

Bowe said diversity is an issue that will remain of peak importance in the Admissions Office in coming years.

“We could be much more of a community if we had wider representation of cultures and races, geographic locations and other backgrounds,” she said.