APU welcomes most diverse freshman class

freshmaninfographic.jpgFor the first time since its founding in 1899, Azusa Pacific University has a freshman class with more than 50 percent non-white students, a demographic that admissions counselor Johanna Deras attributed partially to the school’s relative affordability compared to some public institutions.

“For the first time, more minorities are viewing college not only as an option but [a financially] possible [one],” said Deras, who is in charge of diversity outreach.

Deras said the freshman class reflects changing demographics in America and that APU events like “All Access” help educate first-generation students and give them the confidence they need to choose the school.

U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of best U.S. colleges includes “campus ethnic diversity” as a factor that helps students choose colleges. This is broken into several categories: black or African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian, Pacific Islander, white (non-Hispanic) and multiracial.

The report then ranks colleges on a diversity index from 0.0, very low, to 1.0, very high. APU received a score of .58 last year, compared with Rutgers University, the nation’s highest, at .77 and Stanford University, California’s highest, at .74.

APU’s website has a section on diversity that states it supports “a diverse university across lines of race, ethnicity, culture, gender, socioeconomic status, class, age, and ability.”

As diversity on campus grows, student leadership will be having conversations about how to practically serve higher numbers of minority students.

“Compared to my last three years at APU, now everything is represented here. … After I graduate I can say the school I went to is more and more reflecting the kingdom of God,” said Alyssa Strickling, a senior global studies major and resident adviser.

APU faculty and staff undertake a 16-hour diversity training session every year modeled after “imago dei,” a Latin phrase meaning “in the image of God.”

Imago Dei [training] seemed like a huge step up from last year it was more of a conversation,” Strickling said. “The facilitators made sure the topics were about us…we were able to hold the mirror up to our faces and realize we are all part of this issue, and [to] figure out how to fix it,” Strickling said.

As an RA of a freshman hall, she knows that she and her staff are going to be dealing with completely different issues than others have had to deal with in the past.

“My resident director wants to have more conversations about every kind of diversity in hopes that it will flood over to our residents so they are aware that it is something that needs to be talked about and constantly worked on,” Strickling said.