What does it mean to be the most diverse class?
Whitworth University welcomed its most diverse class, one month ago. On the surface, it looks like Whitworth has taken a step in the right direction toward achieving its 2021 mission plan, which emphasizes diversity.
Whitworth measures diversity by looking at how many students come from traditionally underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds, such as African American, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Native American or Alaskan Native and Hispanic.
Over a quarter of the Class of 2020 comes from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds, according to the Admissions Office. This is a slight increase over last year’s new students and an eleven percent increase in the last five years.
In total, 537 students are ethnically and racially diverse, compared to 507 in 2015.
It is not just those in administration that notice the differences in this year’s student body. Many returning students have said that the diversity is visible and are excited to see how it affects the university.
“I feel like now when [students] go back home they can talk to their people about Whitworth,” senior Adaeze Anamege said. “All of the other races that aren’t usually represented here at Whitworth, I see a lot of them here and this is actually going to be good for Whitworth.”
Anamege is an international student from Nigeria and has been involved in the International Student Center at Whitworth since her freshman year. She said she would have benefited from an emphasis on diversity when she came to Whitworth.
Diversity is a “difference that makes a difference,” assistant dean of diversity, equity and inclusion, David Garcia said. He described the mission of the university as “creating spaces where students can be authentically themselves.”
“We recognize that students are coming from so many different places to campus and so we want to facilitate those cross-cultural exchanges as much as possible,” Garcia said.
He said that he believes every exchange is cross-cultural to some degree in its nature because of all of the different backgrounds represented on campus.
“Male or female, race and ethnicity questions and veteran status, those are some trackable identities,” Garcia said.
A new program instituted this year, called “Building Unity and Cultivating Success” (BUCS) aimed to bridge the gap and aid both international and first generation students become acquainted with university life and get connected to campus resources.
“Diversity is when people from different races, different backgrounds, different cultures, different countries live together as a whole,” sophomore Jeff Louissaint said. “Not as separate people, but living together in perfect harmony, that’s diversity to me.”
Louissaint is from Haiti and was a mentor for the BUCS program. He believes that Whitworth has taken a lot of the right steps to become more diverse and is anticipating the future.
Josiah Van Wingerden