ASU received the 2013 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine and will be featured in the publication’s November issue.
ASU was recognized by the magazine for broadening its definition of diversity, maintaining the President Barack Obama Scholars Program and increasing minority enrollment and graduation through leadership and support.
The magazine’s publisher, Lenore Pearlstein, said recipients of the award demonstrated their diversity and inclusion initiatives by embracing a broad definition of diversity on their campuses, including gender, race, ethnicity, veterans, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community.
“We want to make sure they are reaching out to all underrepresented groups not just one or two,” she said.
The Obama Scholars Program helped ASU receive the award by expanding University access to match Arizona’s diversification and growth.
Maria Allison, vice provost for Academic Excellence and Inclusion, said the Obama Scholars Program more than triples the number of scholars entering ASU.
The program reaches out to students from lower-income families by requiring ASU applicants to demonstrate a total annual family income of $60,000 or less on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, according to the program’s fact sheet.
Microbiology junior Nayeli Apablasa said the Obama Scholars Program made her decide to attend ASU instead of other in-state universities.
“I’ve been able to focus on my academics, and I didn’t have to worry about my financial situation and paying tuition,” she said.
This is one of the six major scholarships Apablasa earned, and others include the Arizona College Scholarship Foundation and ASU Early Outreach scholarships.
Apablasa said ASU’s diverse student population makes her learn from others who have differing origins, beliefs and cultures by hearing their stories and ideas about common issues such as doctor visits.
For example, she said she met a Native American student who grew up on a local reservation, and she learned that reservations have less access to health care and their system is of a lower quality than hers.
“Getting to know different people, their stories and what makes them tick is interesting and mind-opening,” Apablasa said.
Apablasa said her minority status helps ASU because she is able to share her point of view and cultural values with her classmates, peers, coworkers and professors.
“Diversity not only includes culture, race and color,” she said. “It is personality and belief. It’s what makes someone unique.”
Pearlstein said the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award measures an institution’s level of diversity and inclusion on campus through initiatives, programs, outreach, student recruitment, retention, completion and hiring practices for faculty and staff.
According to statistics from ASU’s website, the University has increased its enrollment of racial and ethnic minorities by increasing its relative proportion of the student population from 20.7 percent in fall 2002 to 32.5 percent in fall 2012.
It has also increased the number of minority students who graduate.
In the past decade, bachelor’s degree graduates increased from 1,641 to 3,720 and graduate degree graduates increased from 400 to 1,025. Both bachelor’s and graduate degrees had more than a 100 percent increase in minority student graduates.
Allison said the University’s approach to diversification and inclusion requires the leadership to adopt an inclusive mindset and to implement a transparent plan that includes the involvement of every person in every transaction.
“Diversification of the academy requires thinking beyond singular or isolated programs or events,” she said.
According to University statistics, ASU has been named a “military-friendly school” for its leadership in providing academic support, benefits and paths to success for veterans, for its fifth consecutive year.
Allison said the University is already one of the most diverse educational communities in the country and the University’s aim is to make it the prototype of inclusion.
“This goal is achievable, because we have a solid foundation and leadership that is characterized by creativity, high energy and a commitment to university principles,” she said.
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