Record-setting diversity

To Jasmin Landa, just strolling through campus can be an eye-opening but gratifying experience.

“You can be walking down the street and there’s someone with colored hair, or someone wearing a costume and it’s no big deal,” says the 19-year old freshman business major. “It’s the individuality -- that’s what I love about PSU.”

Acceptance by classmates and faculty is the norm, says Landa, who is Hispanic and Native American. She says she has experienced a handful of cases of “the usual stereotyping” but, “once people get to know me those stereotypes tend to go away. It’s very welcoming here.” 

Landa, a PSU Chronicles blogger, is part of a freshman class that is becoming increasingly diverse. According to the latest enrollment data, 40.3 percent of PSU freshmen are students of color, up from 38.9 percent last year.

Campuswide, ethnically diverse students make up nearly 27 percent of the student body -- the highest of any public university in the state.

The numbers reflect not just the changing face of higher education, but also PSU’s mission as a university that puts a premium on access and inclusion -- and on the notion that all students regardless of background deserve an excellent education.

Recruitment is the key, says Cindy Skaruppa, associate vice president for enrollment management. 

“We start early,” Skaruppa says. Recruiters target programs such as Upward Bound and spend extra time in high schools and community colleges that have high minority populations.

“Our high diversity rate is intentional,” she says. “We don’t leave it to happenstance.”

PSU’s efforts don’t end with recruitment, says Charles Lopez, Chief Diversity Officer at PSU.

“We want students of color to not just enroll, but to feel welcome, to stay and to graduate from PSU,” Lopez says. That means advising, mentoring and on-campus resources such as the Multicultural Center, La Casa Latina and the Native American Student and Community Center.  

By the Numbers

New first-time freshmen

Hispanic/Latino          268

Asian                          165

Black                            58

Native American           26

Pacific Islander             15

Multiple Ethnic/Race   131

Total 663

"Students of color have been historically underrepresented in higher education, so the increased percentage of racial and ethnic minority students at PSU is an important step in the right direction," he says. Commitment to diversity and inclusion starts at the top from President Wim Wiewel, he says, and faculty and staff carry it forward.

The more students interact with others from different cultures, different genders and different orientations, the more they learn, Lopez says.

“There’s an education that goes on not only in the classroom but also from their classmates,” he says. “It helps all of our students to be successful in the global marketplace.”

-- Harry Esteve

PHOTO: Freshman business major Jasmin Landa