BY SHANNON WILEY
As countries around the world experience continued immigration and increased ethnic diversity, Salisbury University has sought to mirror this changing demographic, increasing its diversity by targeting specific groups.
Freshman applications increased from 2009 to 2013 by 22.6 percent, transfer applications increased by 18.3 percent and graduate applications by 17.2 percent, which led to “one of the most accomplished and diverse classes in SU’s history” in 2013, with students from 20 states and 39 countries, as SU’s strategic plan reported.
One of SU’s main strategical goals in widening its diversity is to increase its Hispanic student population and to become the “premier Hispanic-serving institution in the state,” according to a plan published by the university.
Hispanic populations are expected to continue to make up one of the largest groups in the U.S. over the next 50 years, but according to a Pew Research Study, Asians are supposed to become the largest immigrant group by 2055. Likewise, they are supposed make up 38 percent of the foreign-born population in 2065 while Hispanic immigrants will only make up 31 percent.
Kara Siegert, special assistant to the President in the Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment Office, said that increasing their Asian student population is not a main focus right now because the university feels that they have already targeted this population.
“If you look at our English Language Institute, it’s one way that we’ve started to reach out, specifically to Chinese students to help bring them to the United States and help teach them English so that if they are qualified, they can matriculate into the institution,” she said.
Siegert also noted that the university’s study abroad options and partner institutions are primarily in Asia.
“While we would like to increase our Hispanic student population, most of our resources have been focused on recruiting Chinese students,” Siegert said.
Asian and Pacific Islanders Club Advisor and Japanese American Bryan Horikami said that when looking at what the school is setting its goals on, they have to pay attention to when the groups of immigrants came in and what generation they are in.
He said that Chinese and Japanese Americans, who were some of the first immigrants in America and are now on their fifth or sixth generation, already have had children going to college and now have an established tradition of going.
“It depends on how many generations of people you have and right now we have a lot of new immigrants in the Hispanic community,” he said. “So this is the first generation of parents that now have children going through our schools and now they’re ready to come to college… So sure, as an institution looking forward we have to prepare for that.”
Although the university is still working on increasing its Hispanic student population, some Hispanic students on campus feel that SU is nowhere close to being truly ethnically diverse.
The Organization for Latin American Students President Ruth Taleno said that her organization previously worked with the enrollment office at SU to create a resources page for Latin American perspective students, but that these are just first steps.
“I don’t think, for one, that we present ourselves as a friendly body to the Latin community,” she said. “For example my mother only speaks Spanish and I’ve never heard of a translator ever being present at a host tour… and only recently has Admissions, specifically, been present at Latin functions at which they can reach out to the Latin Community.”
“Do I think we are making progress or are we taking the initial step, yes,” she said. “But I don’t think we’re even close to reaching the community whatsoever.”
Currently, Siegert said that the university is trying to reach prospective Hispanic students by advertising in Hispanic and Latino publications and trying to target Hispanic high school students, as research suggests they prefer to stay close to their home and families.