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LU nationally recognized as culturally diverse campus

With more than 14,000 students enrolled, Lamar University is committed to preparing students to thrive in a culturally diverse and global society. It is one of the most ethnically and economically diverse universities in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Vernice Monroe, LU liaison for multicultural enhancement, said the concept of diversity encompasses the presence and participation of individuals who differ by race, ethnicity, color, national origin, age, gender, religion, disability status, socio-economic status, and other cultural affiliations.

“The terms diversity and multicultural are used interchangeably, both implying efforts to remove barriers which prevent cultural inclusion,” said Monroe. “In order to move to a culturally inclusive campus, there is the need to examine the challenges experienced by those who represent diverse populations.  For many years, Lamar has been acknowledged, nationally, as a diverse school.”

The most recent recognition was bestowed in July 2013 at the “Every Student Can” Developmental Education Course Redesign Summit in Austin. Lamar was recognized for excellence in the field of minority education innovation by the P-20 Initiatives for African American Student Success.

“I think recognitions like this present Lamar in a very positive light to those outside the campus,” said Oney Fitzpatrick, associate provost for student retention. “For those who may be looking at an institution of higher education to further their studies and want to be a part of a diverse community, Lamar certainly fits the bill.”

According to Lamar University Office of Institutional Research and Reporting, in the last four years, black ethnicity has increased by 5.5 percent, the Hispanic population by 35.6 percent and Asian enrollment by 2.3 percent.

In fall 2013, the most recent data available, 51 percent of the students enrolled were white, 26 percent African American, 12 percent Hispanic, three percent Asian and eight percent other, which includes American Indian, Alaska Native, multiracial and unknown.

“These numbers certainly confirm facts we are very proud of at Lamar University,” said Kevin Smith, senior associate provost. “We are a very diverse campus and our far-reaching distance learning programs reflect that diversity as well.”

Last year, Lamar was ranked No. 1 in the nation for graduating Hispanic master’s degree students in education for the second consecutive year by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, the leading national education magazine devoted to issues concerning minorities in higher education.

The magazine also ranked Lamar among the top 10 universities nationwide in six additional categories, including fifth for total number of minority graduate students in education, fifth for the most Asian American master’s graduates in physical sciences and sixth in the nation for the most Asian American master’s graduates in communication disorders. The annual rankings also recognized Lamar as the seventh highest institution for graduating the most African American master’s degree students in education, ninth for Hispanic master’s graduates in all disciplines and ninth nationwide for Native American graduate students in education.

In spring 2013, Lamar awarded 142 bachelor’s degrees and 139 master’s degrees to African American students. LU is one of the top universities in Texas for the percentage of degrees conferred to African-Americans.

“Students told me that they were thankful for the kind of diversity we have on campus,” Fitzpatrick said. “It allowed them to be exposed to cultures and ethnicities that they probably would not have normally been exposed to. This makes the learning environment and educational experience better for all involved as each of us share a bit of our world.”

Lamar offers various programs to increase retention rates and cultural diversity. One such program is the African American Male Program (AAMP) that provides professional networking, mentoring, goal setting, and leadership skills to male African Americans enrolled at Lamar University.

“This mentoring program is intended to expose students to other more mature men who could impart wisdom and be life coaches,” said Lamar alumnus Vernon Durden, who has been an active mentor in the program. “Over the years, it has evolved to include men who have achieved success in various fields and who have demonstrated the discipline to excel. These men are also able to mentor after graduation."

Durden said that Lamar being recognized as a diverse university goes in stride with a changing society. “Diversity is a central principle that must be embraced and promoted,” he said. “The learning environment must mirror the larger community we now live in.”

In her position as liaison for multicultural enhancement for Lamar University, Monroe is proud to affirm the university’s progress toward adherence to one of its most important core values; a commitment to diversity in ideas, people, and access.