Increasing Diversity
Enrollment successes prompt college to review diversity goals

Following a string of successes that made former estimates appear modest, the college will review its goals for recruiting underrepresented students and will step up its already energetic efforts to attract faculty of color.

Students pose at graduation.Fall 2010 numbers show total enrollment of students of color has topped 1,000—1,018, to be precise—out of the college’s preliminary 2010-11 headcount enrollment of 8,300. The figures are not official until spring, but they indicate that the college topped its initial goal of 860 by more than 18 percent.

Howard Gordon, executive assistant to President Deborah F. Stanley, said the Enrollment Management Council will discuss revising the goals for students of color for 2011-12 and 2012-13 in the college’s latest five-year enrollment plan. The prospective numbers of underrepresented students had been projected at 874 and 900, respectively, for those years.

Lorrie Clemo, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, expressed delight with the numerical trends. “It’s fabulous news that we’ve exceeded our own goals,” Clemo said. “Increasing diversity on campus has long been a strategic direction of the college—one of our foremost priorities, due to the strong, positive relationship of diversity and academic excellence and community engagement.”

On the faculty side, intensive efforts to recruit and retain an ethnically diverse professoriate have led to an increase in full-time faculty of color as a share of all faculty from 11 percent in fall 2004 to 18.5 percent in fall 2010, according to preliminary fall 2010 data from the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.

“It has been critically important for us that our campus—faculty, staff and students—reflects the rest of society,” Clemo said. 

Keeping momentum

Everyone tasked with helping recruit and retain students and faculty of color—and ensuring a culturally and ethnically rich campus life—acknowledges that there’s a long way to go.

For example, the nine faculty members self-identifying as Hispanic this fall total 2.8 percent of the 319 full-time faculty; the 18 black (non-Hispanic) faculty comprise 5.6 percent. Those figures do mark improvements over the past five years.

Gordon said the old argument that “there just aren’t any (faculty of color) out there” in a given discipline no longer holds up, and the college’s deans, department chairs and faculty search committees have made strong efforts to boost the diversity of candidate pools. He pointed to multipronged efforts of the School of Education to diversify its faculty and reeled off the names of 10 full-time faculty of color in the school.

“That to me is a credit to a real shift on the campus,” Gordon said. “This president has allowed the campus community that she’s been involved with to figure out ways to accomplish this.”

SUNY Oswego’s strategic plan, “Engaging Challenge: The Sesquicentennial Plan,” lays out diversity goals in terms of curriculum, research and scholarship, programming, values and other benchmarks of a nurturing campus climate, in addition to enrollment, employment and retention goals. With more students and faculty of color on campus comes the additional challenge to continue to make them feel welcome.

“The institution has the responsibility to make sure that needs (of all students and faculty) are being served,” said Catherine Santos, associate provost for multicultural opportunities and programs.

Campus climate

Santos said an important work in progress is to create a sense of belonging for all. In a recent student survey her office conducted with the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment on this topic, clubs and organizations emerged as the primary support for students of color, followed by individual mentors on campus. The institution and college community as a whole need to be in that mix, she said.

“For me, that’s an area that needs some work,” Santos said.

The college has a long list of initiatives aimed at improving the campus climate for underrepresented students and faculty and enriching the lives of all others in the campus community: a mentoring program for new faculty and staff, entire weeks (the ALANA Conference) and weekends (the Global Awareness Conference) showcasing cultural and ethnic diversity, requirements like cross-cultural student teaching in adolescence education, the Possibility Scholars program to support socioeconomically disadvantaged, first-generation college students in science-related majors, and the Global Laboratory to encourage multicultural research engagement, among them.

Clemo said the college has achieved success to be proud of, but will continue to support analysis of diversity efforts to understand the reasons for the success and satisfaction of faculty and students of color, so these practices can be expanded to further promote mutual respect and the full, effective use of the talents and abilities of all.

“It requires levels and groups across campus to actualize this and to reach for this level of success,” she said.

The conversation can’t stop at numbers, Santos said. College-wide, the message has to continue to grow that diversity, social justice and equity bring fresh ideas and energy.

“(Recruitment success) means now we have the opportunity for more new ideas, more innovations, more understanding of other cultures, and we need to start engaging that kind of conversation,” she said.

For a chart of the college’s enrollment by race, fall 2005 through fall 2009, visit http://www.oswego.edu/administration/institutional_research/factbook/p30.html

PHOTO CAPTION: Mission accomplished—May 2010 graduates, from left, Kylene Barea, Stephanie Cuciti and Jeanelle Colon reflect the joy of Commencement. The college continues to work to increase enrollment and retention of students of color, along with hiring and retention of underrepresented faculty and staff.

(Posted: Nov 22, 2010)