Outreach director advocates increase of campus diversity

Keynote speaker kicks off Latino Awareness Week.

Cultural diversity is important for campus unity, said David Davis, director of the Office of Early Outreach.

"We learn something in each other," he said.

Such a learning process - particularly on college campuses - was the focus of Davis' keynote address, which kicked off Latino Awareness Week festivities Monday.

According to Davis, there are 57 Latino students in the freshmen class and 221 total at the university.

Davis said he would like to see Latino and other minority numbers increase.

"Diversity forces people to think," Davis said. "We think we know what diversity is, but we really don't. It can encompass different languages, learning styles and races among many other things."

In order to increase Ball State's level of diversity, Davis said that a specific approach is needed in which communication is key.

"I take a very soft-cell approach," he said. "I share information, and hopefully in that process it will sway a person to consider higher education.

"It's not a matter of going out and looking for certain people, but learning about different ways of thinking and about a culture."

But diversity creates an inherent problem, Davis said.

"Diversity is a challenge because when you have a diverse student body, you have to adapt to different styles of learning," he said.

But Davis said the challenge is one Ball State embraces, and that the Office of Early Outreach works to reach minority students in a variety of ways.

Materials, such as brochures and applications for admission, are printed in Spanish, and attendance to programs, such as the Hispanic Center College Fair in Indianapolis and the Indiana Commission on Hispanics, are encouraged, he explained. So far, it seems that these strategies are working, Davis said.

With 40 freshmen Latino students enrolled in 2001, 28 of those students returned for the 2002-2003 school year, giving that group a 70 percent retention rate, Davis said.

Janet Arias, secretary of the Latino Student Union, said she was very pleased with Davis' lecture.

"He let people know the facts and (the university's) strategies," Arias said. "It was very effective in getting his message across."


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