Note: This guest column was submitted by Michael A. McRobbie, president, Indiana University. It appeared in the Indianapolis Star on February 21, 2017.
A half-century ago, not one African-American was employed in a management position at a Fortune 500 company, and out of 12,000 students enrolled in MBA programs across the country, only about 50 were African-Americans.
To address this shameful inequality — and ensure that the nation's businesses reflected our best and brightest regardless of race or ethnicity — three universities with leading business schools, including Indiana University, united to form the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, which marked its 50th anniversary in 2016 and which we were pleased to celebrate in Bloomington last fall. To date, the program has encouraged more than 8,000 men and women of color to earn a graduate business degree.
This program is testament to IU's longstanding commitment to diversity, which we are recognizing on our campuses once again as part of Black History Month, and which we believe is essential to the enduring success of any great university.
At IU, we pride ourselves in fostering free expression and reflecting and championing the cultures of the various communities we represent. To this end, we actively recruit students and faculty from diverse cultural backgrounds and strive to ensure that cultural diversity continues to be well represented in our academic curriculum. Indeed, we believe we learn from those whose beliefs, experiences and perspectives differ from our own, and that these lessons can be best taught in a richly diverse intellectual and social environment.
Increasing IU's minority enrollment remains one of our highest priorities. IU began the current academic year with a record number of freshman minority students and, overall, more minority students —nearly 20,000 — than at any other time in the university's history. We also set new records for the number of Hispanic/Latino students and Asian-American students, and we have the second highest number of African-American students in IU’s history. Remarkably, the overall percentage of minority students at IU — 23 percent — is slightly higher than the minority population of our state.
This year, the number of minority students on our Bloomington campus increased by over 500, and the campus set records for the number of African-American, Hispanic/Latino and Asian-American students. The Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus also set records for Hispanic/Latino students and Asian-American students, and began the academic year with the second highest number of African-American students in its history. Its freshmen class set records in all of these categories and is the most academically talented first-year class in IUPUI’s history. Our campuses in Richmond, Kokomo and South Bend all set new records for minority enrollment.
Between 2005 and 2015, among domestic degree-seeking students, the number of African-American students at IU increased by more than 20 percent, the number of Asian students increased by more than 103 percent and the number of Hispanic/Latino students increased by more than 142 percent.
Furthermore, IU Bloomington and IUPUI were once again honored with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from "Insight Into Diversity," the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. The award recognizes schools that have demonstrated a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion through their innovative programs, hiring practices, training, curricula and on-campus support systems.
Despite these and other achievements, we must continue to do more to attract talented minority students to our campuses. We must identify and address the obstacles that still stand between many minority students and a college education. We need to ensure that an IU education is accessible and affordable for qualified students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, including first-generation college students, veterans and students from under-represented groups. And we have an obligation to facilitate greater cultural appreciation and engagement in a state that is becoming increasingly diverse and where minority populations will continue to have a major impact on our economic development.
We have taken a number of steps in recent years to achieve these goals. We have increased our diversity-oriented student recruitment efforts in cities and towns across the state, with a focus on making personal connections through what we call the "six Cs," community organizations, counselors in high schools, camps, competitions, churches and community colleges. We have provided record amounts of financial aid to support the recruitment and retention of students from historically under-represented racial and ethnic groups. And we are also heavily engaged in efforts to increase the number of women and minorities who pursue education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Building a diverse, inclusive and multicultural academic community remains an enormous and complex challenge — one that can only be met if parents, communities, secondary educators and educational institutions across our state, including IU, work together.
On our campuses, and in the communities in which these campuses are located, there are many people who accept this challenge. They have dedicated themselves with passion to building a university — and a state — where all types of people from all cultures come together to learn and grow with each other.