Western gets high diversity marks

Mai Hoang

Camira Warfield had made up her mind.

She was ready in April 2002 to travel to Muncie, Ind., to begin her college days at Ball State University in the fall.

But then Luther Hughes, assistant vice president for enrollment management at Western, met with Warfield personally to offer scholarships and reasons for her to come to the Hill.

Those reasons were enough for her to stash away her Ball State T-shirts. They also added one more black student to the university’s ranks.

And there are others.

Western has the most campus diversity of all colleges and universities surveyed in Kentucky, according to rankings from the U.S. News and World Report.

The university was ranked above seven other Kentucky institutions in a survey of campuses in the South.

Western’s diversity index was .20 of 1.0. The closer a university’s diversity index is to 1.0, the more diverse it is.

The rankings also show that the university has more black students, with 9 percent, than other Kentucky schools participating in the survey.

Murray State was the closest to Western with a .15 diversity index and about 6 percent black students.

The University of Louisville, University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University were not included in the rankings.

President Gary Ransdell said the rankings were significant.

“It’s extremely important when students graduate and go to work, that they are going to find a diverse workplace,” Ransdell said.

Western has several programs that reach out to minority students, said Adrien DeLoach, the coordinator for minority student recruitment.

One event is Spring Preview Day.

For three years, black high school juniors and seniors have come to Western to visit the campus and interact with faculty and staff.

DeLoach said the number of students who come to the event has increased from 200 in 2001 to 268 in 2003. He said he hopes 300 will come out this year.

While there are no exact statistics, about 70 percent who came to Spring Preview Day eventually enrolled at Western, DeLoach said.

Individual departments also offer programs, such as workshops, that bring minorities to campus.

“When students visit the campus, they usually make the decision to come here,” DeLoach said. “Once they come down here, it’s pretty much sold, even if they get better deals at other places.”

Such connections have led students like Warfield to decide to attend Western. She said she was surprised and flattered that Hughes was willing to talk to her and provide funds for her to come to Western.

“That let me know that the faculty was approachable, that the people were friendly,” she said. “And I could come to them if I needed them.”

Hopkinsville freshman Taureen Douglas said it meant a lot to him that DeLoach kept in touch with him after he came to visit his high school.

Although he knew Western had one of the best theater programs in the state, it was the campus and the people he met that ultimately steered him.

“They just helped me decide that this is where I should be,” he said. “They made me feel right at home.”

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]