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UW-Eau Claire's Multicultural
Enrollment Tops 500
MAILED: Feb. 7, 2002
EAU CLAIRE — The multicultural student population at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has topped 500 for the first time, a tribute to the university's overall quality and its ongoing commitment to increasing the number of students of color on campus, said Jim Vance, director of the American Ethnic Coordinating Office.
A total of 521 students of color are enrolled at UW-Eau Claire this semester, including 77 African-American students, 70 American Indian students, 272 Asian/Southeast Asian students, and 102 Hispanic/Latino students.
"We are attracting the best of the best - students who have multiple options when it comes to choosing a college," Vance said. "These are bright, active and involved students. They're students of color who every school has targeted but they've chosen to come here."
The growing number of multicultural students reflects the university's innovative approach to recruiting students of color and the overall quality of the institution, Vance said.
"UW-Eau Claire is a desirable place to be if you're an outstanding young person of any race or ethnicity," Vance said. "We have broad programs, small classes, a safe campus and a number of other things that most students and parents find desirable.
"We market the university to students of color just as we market it to majority students - we focus on quality. But we also do extra things for students of color. We help them connect to faculty and staff mentors, we provide them with scholarships, and we help them find ways to become part of the fabric of the institution. And the campus as a whole is benefiting."
It's that extra attention that makes the difference, said several multicultural freshmen who picked UW-Eau Claire after being recruited by other prestigious public and private schools.
"Everyone has done whatever they could to make me feel comfortable here," said Victoria Luglio, a business major from Muskego. "There is a lot of one-on-one attention and a lot of people helping to make sure things work out for me."
"I feel like I belong here," said Michelle Pickett, a biology/pre-medicine major from Milwaukee. "They care about me. I have a name and a face - I'm not just a number."
And it's not just the staff in the American Ethnic office that reaches out, said Joe Horton, a political science/pre-law major from Franklin. "The faculty are accessible and helpful. It's the second day of class and my professor already knows my name in a lecture with 150 students. Professors teach here because they like it and it shows in how they connect with students."
That individual attention was a huge factor in his decision to attend a school that is less diverse than others that were recruiting him, Horton said. "Coming from the Milwaukee area, this is a big change for me," he said. "There aren't a lot of people here who look like me. But they're working to change that here, and they're willing to listen to my input. I like to participate and there aren't a lot of places where people would listen to what a freshman has to say."
While the university continues to attract multicultural students whose parents do not have a college education, it also is attracting children of multicultural alumni, Vance said.
"Their parents graduated and reflect on their experiences here in a positive way," Vance said. "They're encouraging their kids to follow suit. Parents see this as a safe place with a good learning environment - two important criteria for any parent."
Among the reasons for parents' growing comfort level is the attention the American Ethnic staff gives to families, not just students, during the recruitment process, while students are in college and after they graduate, Vance said, noting that multicultural alumni help recruit multicultural students. So if a multicultural parent attended UW-Eau Claire at a time when diversity was not a priority, they see that the campus now values a diverse population, he said.
The campus as whole - including majority students - understands that a diverse student population adds to the educational experience, the students said. "Students with different backgrounds add their points of view to a discussion - in and out of the classroom," Luglio said. "Hearing different opinions is even more important given what's going on in the world now."
Multicultural students also benefit from the campus' racial makeup, Horton said. "There are lots of people here from small towns whose backgrounds are different from my experiences in Milwaukee," Horton said. "I learn from them. My roommate is a conservative Republican from a smaller city - I learn as much from him as he learns from me. We're all learning how to get along in life and how to get along with people who are different from us."
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Feb. 7, 2002