Class of 2013 is most diverse yet

In a state where the latest census puts racial and ethnic minorities at 3 percent of the population, diversity is especially relevant to the University of Vermont.UVM’s Board of Trustees takes this responsibility very seriously, having adopted a diversity statement in 2004 saying that diversity and academic excellence are “inseparable.”UVM programs intended to promote cultural and ethnic diversity, like the ALANA programs, are crucial in maintaining an all-inclusive University environment. The ALANA Student Center, ALANA coalition and ALANA Studies Program are all separate departments that work together to create a more diverse, better educated and better represented student body.The Board of Admissions reported a total enrollment of 310 new freshman ALANA (African, Latino(a), Asian and Native American) students up from 206 last year— making the class of 2013 the “most diverse in UVM history,” Director of Admissions Beth Wiser said. “The increase has come as a result of many years of building relationships with schools and developing partnerships with organizations that support access for underrepresented and low-income/first-generation students,” Wiser said. “In addition, our ALANA students are having a great experience at UVM because of the support they are receiving.”The Board of Admissions, using strategic enrollment management, strives to create a more diverse student body through a “qualified applicant pool,” Wiser said. ALANA students are welcomed to UVM by a supportive community of faculty, staff and students who work together to promote a safe, enthusiastic and exciting university environment, Director of the ALANA Student Center Beverly Colston said. “ALANA functions as a community hub, with the spokes of the wheel connecting to other communities of UVM,” Colston said. “We believe that the students who wish to develop their racial and cultural identities require a supportive community.”Colston expressed the importance of the UVM community’s recognition that minority students attend the school for a number of reasons— whether for sports, academics or other factors— and that they do not simply fit one profile. There are also majority students that choose to identify with the minority and to live in that context, she said. According to the program pamphlet, the ALANA Student Center offers a network of useful contacts for multiracial and biracial students including Alianza Latina, the Asian American Student Union (AASU), the Black Student Union (BSU), the Council for Unity (CFU), and the Muslim Student Association (MSA). Each of the ALANA-affiliated organizations seek to “enhance [students’] overall experience” at UVM through creating relationships with other students, organizations and communities, and to allow students to “have a balance of academic and social involvements.”The recent increase in the number of ALANA students speaks to the changing demographic in the country, Colston said, and admissions is working on letting people of color know that they are welcome and wanted at our University. “Taking the time to build relationships is really important,” she said. “We want folks to know that, if they send their kids here, we will keep them safe. This is their home away from home.”Among newer developments in ALANA, advocacy work has increased over recent years. Greater inter-department communication and observance of student’s experiences have been instituted, and programs to support leadership and community-building have also gone up. With a constantly growing Student Center and greater ability to serve the student body, ALANA remains a valuable campus resource that helps multiracial and biracial students to feel welcome, find a community in which they are comfortable and have their voices heard in an increasingly diverse university setting.