While diversity at University of Wisconsin is slowly increasing, numbers released by the Office of the Provost show this increase continues to be minimal from year to year.
Undergraduate students identifying themselves as white was recorded at about 84 percent in fall 2004 compared to 77.59 percent in fall 2012 and 76.49 percent this past fall, according to a Capital Times analysis of the Data Digest.
Ruby Paredes, executive assistant to the vice chancellor for student affairs in the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, said the digest distinguishes between definitions of minority students and targeted minority students.
The targeted minority category includes students who are Hispanic/Latino, African-American, American Indian or Southeast Asian (Hmong, Vietnamese and Cambodian), as stated in the Digest’s definition. The minority category includes all targeted categories as well as students who are non-Southeast Asians and Native Hawaiians, the definition states.
Since 1974, when race and ethnicity data was first included in the digest, the percentage of minority students at all levels, undergraduate, graduate and doctorate, increased from less than 4 percent to 14.5 percent in 2013, it shows.
In undergraduate students, the percentage of targeted minority students rose past 10 percent for the first time in university history this year, the data digest shows.
Ryan Adserias, a Ph.D. student studying educational leadership and policy analysis and co-chair of the Ad Hoc Diversity Planning Committee, said this increase largely stems from efforts made by programs like Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence and Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives First Wave students, which build direct connections to high school student recruitment.
Paredes said it is important to note the retention rate of targeted minority students, which is 1.5 percent lower than the freshman average in the 2012 one-year retention rate category and 13.9 percent lower than the 2007 six-year graduation rate category.
Adserias said it is important to create a positive environment on campus for minority students.
“Students from underrepresented minority backgrounds will come to the university and experience a bad climate. They may be the only student in the classroom that looks like them,” Adserias said. “But that is something we have control over to a fairly large degree and are working toward addressing.”
Conversely, the Data Digest shows diversity in UW faculty has remained stagnant. In 2004, 54 faculty members were listed as African-American, and in 2013, the total remains the same. The total number of faculty has been reduced from 2,238 to 2,189 in that same time frame, the digest shows.
Diversifying faculty is important because it gives minority students real-life relationships and examples of role models they can identify with and who can inspire them to achieve at UW, Adserias said.
Paredes said UW administrators continue the conversation about looking for ways to increase the number of faculty and students of color.
“The larger issue is creating, in the campus and within classrooms, a diverse environment because studies have shown, time and again, that when you have a diverse group learning is more dynamic, the critical thinking skills are developed because of different perspectives and different opinions that are exchanged and included in academic discussions,” Paredes said.