Campus sets new record for diversity

Source: Illinois News Bureau

Toni Pantone

Source: Illinois News Bureau

By Madelyn Foster, Assistant News Editor

The University class of 2022 has topped past years’ number of students from underrepresented backgrounds, but efforts to make the University more diverse are still ongoing.

Nancy ‘Rusty’ Barcelo, visiting special assistant to the Chancellor for Diversity, said the University has made collective efforts to improve diversity, but this year’s numbers do not mean the University is perfect.

“How do we measure what we know besides just checking a box? Because it isn’t just about numbers; it’s about how this work is being implemented into everything you do. We’re working on those accountability measures,” Barcelo said.

Out of the class of 2022, 22.2 percent of students come from underrepresented backgrounds and 22.1 percent of students are first-generation students.

Andrew Borst, director of undergraduate admissions, said in an email that a significant portion of admissions efforts this year was directed toward students from historically underrepresented backgrounds.

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    According to Borst, the efforts include peer recruitment programs, multicultural receptions, honors receptions, application workshops, campus visit programs, high school and fair visits, partnerships with community based organizations and financial aid programs.

    Gioconda Guerra Pérez, assistant vice chancellor of Diversity and Academic Inclusive Excellence, said the University is working to connect students to new programs and initiatives through social media.

    “We have to rethink the ways we reach out to the new generation,” she said. “We have to look at what is new that provides access to students in terms of information, and we have to use those tools.”

    The University was named one of 96 recipients of the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award by “Insight into Diversity.” This is the sixth consecutive year the University has received this award.

    “The HEED award is a prestigious award nationally, and the fact that we have received it so many times in a row tells me that we are on the right track and continuing to make gains,” Pérez said.

    She also said while the University is making strides in diversity efforts, the record number of students from underrepresented backgrounds in the class of 2022 may be a result of changing demographics in the state of Illinois.

    “Illinois, like many other states, has an increasingly changing landscape, which is also a contributor to the diverse group of students we have today,” she said.

    Jorge Boyas, freshman in Education, is a first-generation Latino student. He said the University is trying hard to give increasing opportunities to students with diverse backgrounds, but he still does not feel the University is diverse enough.

    “Speaking from my experience in the College of Education, the University is not diverse enough,” Boyas said in an email. “I look around my classes and see a lot of room for growth.”

    Although Barcelo said she is proud of the progress in diversity the University has made, efforts shouldn’t stop here.

    “It’s not just the responsibility of the Diversity Office, it’s all of our responsibilities to do this work,” Barcelo said. “Is it enough? It’s never enough from where I sit.”

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