Diversified assets

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    TCU has come a long way since it first opened the doors to its new Fort Worth campus in 1911. Then a fledgling campus of 500 students in the segregated south, diversity really wasn’t a question.

    But times and people have changed and the expectation for equality is something that every institution has to answer to. So how does the university measure up? It depends on how you measure success.

    Though TCU is a middle-sized private school, steady growth continues to increase the number of minority, international and non-traditional students but some groups have seen minimal growth or decline which has largely been masked by a continually increasing Hispanic population.

    Over the past ten years the total student population has grown more than 17.5 percent overall, but the percentage of minority students has only increased by 6.7 percent for a total of 18.1 percent for the 2010-2011 school year.

    The black population on campus has hovered at around 5 percent for the past 10 years and this year’s percentage of 4.9 is the lowest since 2001. The Hispanic population on the other hand has almost doubled over the same decade to 9.3 percent this year.

    As one of the most underrepresented groups on campus, non-traditional students over 30 years of age comprise about 2.3 percent of the population on campus and don’t have any official organization that is recognized by the university.

    The university is making an effort to increase diversity on campus through specialized recruiting techniques and involvement in programs that target minority students, said Ray Brown, dean of admissions.

    “I’ll challenge anybody to find a school that is doing more,” Brown said. “We do stuff on the local level, on the state level and on the national level.”

    Cristina Ramos, program coordinator for Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services, said statistics showed that minority students were not making TCU their first choice because the cost of attendance was prohibitive. Tuition at state schools is significantly less expensive. Students at the University of Texas, where the minority population is close to half, pay less than $5,000 per semester.

    Brown said a contributing factor to the higher minority population at UT the top ten percent rule, which requires Texas’s state-funded universities to accept all students who graduated in the top ten percent of their high school class.

    To make TCU more appealing to lower-income students, Brown said the university continues to increase scholarships and financial aid and continues to develop recruiting strategies that are tailored to minority students. One of the local programs the university is involved with is the Community Scholars Program, which targets 11 high schools in the Fort Worth and Dallas Independent School Districts.

    Founded by the Chancellor’s Council on Diversity in 1999, its sole missions was as to increase diversity on campus by attracting minority students who are leaders in their community. Then-Chancellor Michael R. Ferrari said the program would benefit not only the incoming students, but also the TCU community as a whole.

    “A diverse learning environment is essential to preparing students for active leadership and responsible citizenship in the global and diverse world community of today and tomorrow, especially in light of the demographic projections for Texas,” the community scholars website quoted him as saying.

    The program is not restricted to minority students, but the majority at the 11 high schools is Hispanic or black, said Timeka Gordon, assistant director of the Community Scholars program. This year the program had two white students on scholarship for the first time in its history.

    As part of the scholarship program, students have individual advising with a staff member freshman through senior year, Ramos said. They must also do study hours, community service and be in at least one student organization on campus.

    Although the administration is actively pursuing diversity, there is only so much that they can do, and students also play a big role, Gordon said.

    “It takes everybody on campus to show that TCU is a welcoming and friendly campus,” Gordon said. “All of us have to work together to show the community that regardless of their background all students have a place at the university.”

    Cherise Patterson, a junior nursing major, said the program opened a lot of doors for her that might have otherwise been closed allowing her to experience culture that she would not have been exposed to. She said even though the campus is not as diverse as other campuses in the Metroplex she has been happy here.

    “You shouldn’t look at how many people go to a university that look like you, but how many people go to a university that are in a position in life that you want to be in someday,” Patterson said.

    Editor-in-chief Katie Martinez contributed to this story.

    PROFILES IN DIVERSITY

    The background and experiences of these four students are all different. Whether a minority student, an international student or a non-traditional student their experiences have given them all a different outlook on TCU.

    Alessandra Richetta – junior strategic communications major

    For Richetta choosing a university was easy. While a senior in high school, she toured SMU first and came to campus during a Monday at TCU. She said the students were welcoming, the campus was the right size and the atmosphere was exactly what she was hoping for.

    Richetta has a mixed heritage. Her mother is from Mexico and her father is an Italian who was born in Venezuela.

    “I’ve never felt uncomfortable by my race,” Richetta said. “I’ve never walked into a room and felt like people were staring at me because I was different.”

    She said she has never felt discriminated against on campus, but she thinks it does happen. Richetta said one of her friends at TCU, a black male student, confided to her that he had been teased about his minority status on campus.

    She said more campus-wide events, like the diversity carnivals her high school used to have could help improve inclusiveness on campus and attract a more diverse student body.

    Groups would set up informational booths with information and traditional food and talk to other students about their culture.

    Even though the campus is more than 75 percent white, Richetta said she has made friends of different races and backgrounds and has found the students to be welcoming and accepting of everyone.

    Robin Bajracharya – sophomore finance and accounting major

    Bajracharya is an international student from Nepal.

    He said he made the decision to come to TCU because of the reputation of the Neeley School of business and he already had friends from back home who were attending the university.

    Bajracharya said it was really hard to adapt at first because the customs were so different. At home he said young people are much more pampered and he had never had to do so much independantly to take care of himself.

    “Looking back now, I guess I was a bit pampered by my parents,” The sounds, smells and food were all new to him. But he immediately felt that the students accepted him, it didn’t take long for him to feel comfortable and welcome on campus.

    “Sometimes you do get treated differently,” said Bajracharya. “As an international student people will stereotype you, and sometimes people don’t have accurate information about where you are from.”

    Bajracharya said that some students have approached him to ask him questions about his culture and where he is from and he likes that.

    He said he thinks it is important for minority, international, and non-traditional students to join an organization that is tailored to them. Bajracharya joined the International Student Association his freshman year and is now vice president of the organization.

    He said he thinks the number of international students on campus is fairly typical, but he suspects that the minority population is smaller than other small private schools.

    George Becker – senior finance and accounting major

    As a non-traditional student, Becker is part of one of the most underrepresented demographics on campus, the over-30 crowd. He transferred to TCU after getting his associate’s degree from Austin Community College in 2008. He said he chose the university because he had family in the area, a scholarship opportunity and wanted to be a part of the Neeley School of Business.

    Becker got caught up working in the dot-com boom after graduating from high school and dropped out of college to ride the wave. When the bubble eventually burst he entered the mortgage industry.

    Becker said instability in the markets prompted him to start taking college courses again and he earned his associate’s degree. When the housing market crashed in 2008 Becker saw it as his opportunity to further his education.

    Becker said he has often felt discriminated against on campus and that there simply isn’t enough support for non-traditional students, many of whom have young children, families and work outside of school.

    He said he made an effort to integrate and become involved in student organizations on campus, but wasn’t accepted. He said one of the members confided in him that age had been a factor in their decision.

    “Going back to school there are going to be some challenges with that because you didn’t follow the traditional route straight out of high school,” Becker said.

    The barrier between traditional and non-traditional students is harder to cross at TCU, Becker said, because it’s a smaller campus with a tiny fraction of non-traditional students.

    Becker said he thought the administration should provide a support base for these students.

    Cherise Patterson – junior nursing major

    Patterson grew up in Fort Worth and never dreamed she would be able to go to TCU. She knew she wanted to go to college and she started looking at other options, but on a whim she decided to fill out the application for the Community Scholars Program. She was one of a handful of students who received the honor this year and she said she wouldn’t have been able to attend without the program.

    TCU has always been a warm and welcoming campus, she said, and her overall experience has been great. She doesn’t dwell on the breakdown by race at the university and she has never felt discriminated against on campus. But she said has heard stories from her some of her friends who do feel that they have.

    A couple of her black male friends have confided in her that they are frequently profiled as being athletes and people assume they are on an athletic scholarship. She said her friends always make it a point to let people know that they are at TCU because of their leadership abilities, academic accomplishments and service to the community like most everyone else on campus.

    The university atmosphere is diverse, but not nearly as diverse as it has the potential to be, Patterson said.

    More multicultural events that would appeal to all students would help bring students together and attract a more diverse population, she said.

    “As a minority I feel like we need to make more of an effort to put our face on campus and go outside our particular organizations,” Patterson said. “I feel like it’s our job to change people’s opinion.”