The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Toward a more multicultural campus

ELCA colleges and universities work to increase ethnic diversity

By the end of the 2005-06 academic year, Arne Selbyg, ELCA director for colleges and universities, said people of color and those whose native language is not English composed, on average, “a little more than 10 percent of the student body at ELCA schools.” They were roughly 8 percent of the faculty, he added.

The percentages may move up or down a point or two from year to year, but the general trend is up at most of the 28 schools.

There may be a temptation to dismiss multicultural concerns as mere “political correctness,” Selbyg said, but the concerns “come out of a sense that [ELCA schools] have to be ready to educate all people.”

At an Augsburg College dinner, student
At an Augsburg College dinner, student Jessica Lin Love talks to mentor Steven Grande. To meet the needs of multicultural students, the Minneapolis college provides them with mentors from the faculty, upper-class students or minority alumni.
The schools share a common belief that “to be a good college, we have to prepare students to serve in the world,” he added. That world is racially, ethnically and culturally diverse—almost completely the opposite of the traditional American college campus. So ELCA colleges and universities seek a variety of ways and means to attract, maintain and increase the diversity of their student bodies and faculties.

At Capital University, Columbus, Ohio, David Yokley, assistant director of admissions and multicultural recruitment, said unofficial estimates place minority students at 12 percent of the 2007-08 freshman class, down from last year’s 13 percent.

“But then, last year’s freshman class was our biggest ever, 700 students as opposed to 650 this year,” he said. He estimated that the number of minorities in the total student body is 14 percent.

“A lot of African American students are turned off by small schools, especially schools in small towns,” he said, “but our locale here in a Columbus suburb really helps us. We have a strong relationship with the Columbus public schools and other institutions.”

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