K-State excels in diversity


In 2002, K-State lacked ethnic diversity. The accrediting body found problems with the lack of diversity in enrolled students, as well as the faculty and staff. There simply was no excellence in diversity at K-State.

In 2012, the accrediting body returned. They gave K-State a glowing report and what Myra Gordon, associate provost for the Office of Diversity, said was “the turnaround story of the decade.”

The accrediting body came back for their review and by the time it was over, they summed up the report in two words, “most commendable.” K-State had excelled in terms of enrolling a more diverse group of students, as well as adding excellent recruiting and support programs.

The university had made significant progress in incorporating more diversity into all areas, and progress is continuing to grow. The 2014 fall enrollment was the highest it has ever been, bringing in 6,217 minority students. That number is double that of the 2002 enrollment, and students are taking notice.

“I know JMC is taking steps in practicing the promotion of diversity,” Victor Roy, junior in mass communications, said. “I can definitely see a growing diverse student body. It’s amazing to see what the future holds for K-State.”

K-State has been rewarded with 15 different awards in the past two years. The university also received two national awards, one from Minority Access Inc., and one from Insight into Diversity.

So what changes did K-State make from 2002-12? The Office of Diversity came up with a 10-point plan to try to provide leadership in building an inclusive campus climate that fosters mutual understanding among diverse groups.

The plan, which allowed for strategic planning, leadership and accountability, aimed to increase diversity on campus, and used the same model K-State uses for research and development. Under the plan, the deans’ office of each college has a responsibility to establish diversity within their college. Gordon referred to this as an “infrastructure of leadership.”

“It is very much like the system we have for working on issues in research, for working on issues in the curriculum,” Gordon said.

After the the 10-point plan was developed and implemented, there was systematic reporting and feedback between college department heads and the Office of Diversity. The department heads focused on enrolling more minority students or increasing diversity among the faculty and staff. Through sustained effort, K-State transformed itself from a university with underrepresented minority students, to one recognized for its diversity, rewarded and noted on a national stage.

Added diversity helps bring money into the university through grants from the state and federal government, as well as through an increase in tuition from the increased enrollment. The Louis Stoke Alliance for Minority Participation and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are a multimillion dollar grants dedicated to issue of diversity. Donors and corporations also give donations toward diversity through the K-State Foundation.

The students themselves are bringing in more money than ever before. K-State has the highest enrollment to date and also has the highest enrollment of diverse and international students as well. From 2002-14, the number of international students increased by 104 percent, African American students increased by 50 percent, Asian students increased by 35 percent, Hispanics increased by 176 percent, Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have increased 100 percent and multi-racial students increased by 379 percent.

The only groups of students that have not increased their enrollment are Caucasians and Native Americans. Without the diversity of students enrolling, K-State does not bring in the base enrollment of 24,766 students, meaning the university has less money from tuition.

“The revenue they generate and bring in here is essential to the university having its base enrollments, because anytime we drop below these enrollments … the university is in trouble and we can’t make it on a white student enrollment alone,” Gordon said.

Diversity within the student population is not K-State’s sole focus; it is also a goal to have a diverse faculty and staff. A growing body of research provides evidence that a diverse faculty and staff benefits the mission of teaching, research and service by creativity, innovation and problem solving, according to Cheryl Johnson, vice president of the Division of Human Capital Services.

Research shows that diverse workgroups are more productive, creative and innovative than homogeneous groups according to “The Benefits and Challenges of Diversity in Academic Settings” article by the Women in Science and Engineering Institute. Diversity at K-State would create a more rich and stimulating environment for students to learn and develop their skills.

From 2002-14, diversity has increased in the positions of professors, associate and assistant professors, clinical or research associates and assistant professors and instructors. The number of African Americans increased 66.67 percent, Asians increased 47.11 percent, Hispanics increased 130.43 percent and Native Americans increased by 40 percent. These numbers are increasing, but when compared to the student diversity percentage from 2002-12, they do not match.

That being said, Johnson is ready to combat these numbers and said K-State needs to “re-engineer the hiring process so that hiring managers and department chairs have robust demographical information about talent availability.

Johnson is considering several other actions as well. One is to deploy the Affirmative Action plan as proactive information for workforce planning purposes, and to include diversity with inclusion material. Another is to provide department chairs and hiring managers with additional sources to help them recruit and post positions. The Division of Human Capital Services is trying to improve diversity by working with hiring managers and prospective employees to make the transition to Manhattan easier.

Diversity programs on campus for students include the Black Student Union and Diverse Mass Communicators. Paul Cannon, senior in mass communications and social chair for DMC, said the issue DMC is concerned about right now is raising awareness of diversity. The DMC has hosted events like movie nights, where they watched and discussed the movie “The Great Debaters.” Based on a true story, the movie is about a black debate team trying to get equal footing with whites in the south in the 1930s.

“We’re trying to get minorities to have more of a say, a voice really, on campus such as (Student Governing Association) and the student government body,” Cannon said.

On the front page of their website, DMC states its mission as “To provide professional opportunities for growth and effectively promote cultural diversity through all media outlets, while actively recruiting prospective students of all ethnicities to the Kansas State University A.Q. Miller School of Journalism; and, essentially, to the university in an effort to enrich and increase our campus’ cultural diversity.”

While the DMC focuses mostly on mass communications, the BSU’s focuses more on programs and activities tied to K-State as a whole. According to its website, the BSU’s mission is “to focus on the development of the Kansas State community by advancing academic stability, political action and the leadership of black students, while promoting Black culture across all aspects of life.”