At a Connect Four meeting, students create flags to represent their strengths, values, and identities. Multicultural enrollment is flourishing in the College of Human Sciences, and innovative programs help minority students to succeed. Photo by Wyeth Lynch.
At a Connect Four meeting, students create flags to represent their strengths, values, and identities. Multicultural enrollment is flourishing in the College of Human Sciences, and innovative programs help minority students to succeed. Photo by Wyeth Lynch.

Multicultural student enrollment, programs flourish

When it comes to cultural diversity, the Iowa State University College of Human Sciences (CHS) is taking significant strides in ethnic minority enrollment and cultivating programs to help students thrive.

Undergraduate minority enrollment in CHS has increased by 22 percent over the past year, and 93 percent since 2005. CHS’s minority enrollment has grown 58 percent faster than Iowa State University’s overall, and – according to a recent report by the Food and Agricultural Education Information System (FAEIS) – 49 percent faster than minority enrollments in similar colleges and departments nationwide.

CHS has particularly high minority student enrollment in hospitality management and apparel, merchandising, and design (AMD) – 17 percent and 24 percent higher, respectively, than FAEIS national averages for comparable programs.

Denise Williams, the diversity coordinator for CHS, cites program quality as a key reason for robust enrollment.

“Our majors and programs are applicable to real-world experiences and the interests of incoming students,”  Williams said. “We’re also attracting open option students across the university.” 

Griselda Rodriguez, a sophomore, is one of these students. To achieve her dream of becoming a dentist, she changed her major from psychology to kinesiology and health.

“Minorities are largely underrepresented in the dentistry and health sector,”  Rodriguez said. “As a dentist, I want to improve the oral health of my community and reach out to minority patients.” 

Multicultural programs and resources

The CHS Multicultural Programs Office features a variety of resources to help students of color succeed academically, develop leadership skills, and reach their career goals.

“We’ve been more intentional with targeted outreach to make sure students have access to the help they need,”  Williams said. Minority students can request subsidized tutoring, join culture-focused clubs and organizations, and receive peer mentoring through Connect Four and its equivalent for transfer students, Trans Four.

Paul Edwards, a sophomore in hospitality management, has taken advantage of academic tutoring services through Multicultural Student Affairs.

“I am proud of my academic performance, so asking for help was difficult,”  Edwards said. “However, Iowa State does such a fantastic job of making academic assistance readily available to all students that I had the courage to apply.” 

As a freshman, Rodriguez enrolled in Connect Four – an unofficial learning community to help students of color link with peer mentors, learn strategies for academic success, and explore resources and scholarship opportunities on campus.

“Connect Four was really helpful,”  Rodriguez said. “We talked about our short-term and long-term goals and learned how to stay motivated.” 

Retention rates and GPAs are higher for Connect Four participants than eligible non-participants, and Williams hopes to see continued improvement.

“Eventually,”  Williams said, “we’d like to close the retention and graduation gap between majority students and students of color.” 

Advice for new students

Malaika Muvundamina, a senior in kinesiology and health, encourages CHS students of color to get involved in a wide range of clubs and organizations on campus.

“Meet new people and get out of your comfort zone,”  she said. “Some of my best experiences here at Iowa State have been things that pushed me beyond what I normally would do.” 

Williams stresses the importance of “taking advantage of resources and asking questions.”  Students who make the Iowa State campus their own tend to have a more positive experience, she said.

“Our students have started the AMD Multicultural Organization, ILEAD [ISU Leaders in Education and Diversity], and the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality,”  Williams said. “They’re leading, mentoring, and engaging academically. When our students are doing amazing things and having a great experience, it strengthens the whole college and helps attract new students as well.” 

Contacts:

Denise Williams
515-294-0532
dnwill@iastate.edu

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