Last month Villanova welcomed the Class of 2010, the most culturally diverse class in the University’s history. Over 20 percent of this year’s freshmen are multicultural students, whereas five years ago only 13.6 percent of the University demographic was considered multicultural. Compare this year’s class to that of the Class of 2000’s 9.8 percent, and the University’s commitment to diversity becomes even more apparent.
Applications from multicultural students rose 40 percent last year, while applications from international students rose 39 percent. Though enrollment of international students remained the same, enrollment from multicultural students continued its upward trend.
For the Class of 2010, 337 out of the 1,634 total students who accepted offers of admission were multicultural students, yielding a multicultural population of 20.6 percent.
“This is our second year at the 20 percent level,” said George Walter, associate dean of enrollment management.
Walter noted that concerted efforts to change a negative cultural perception of homogeneity have been going on for several years and really began under the leadership of President Emeritus Rev. Edmund Dobbin.
“It is not just one person’s or office’s responsibility,” Walter said. “There is a lot of activity on campus contributing to it.”
Walter also indicated that efforts from departments such as the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Villanova’s use of the Common Application with the current freshman class led to the rise in applicants.
“We saw the Common Application as a means by which to expose students to ‘Nova not just in the country, but throughout the world,” he said.
Enrolling freshmen came from 34 states, the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia, as well as from 18 foreign countries. The middle 50 percent range of SAT scores among entering freshmen was 1200-1350 (counting only the math and critical reading sections), while the middle 50 percent range of GPA was 3.50-3.95.
Walter acknowledged that with such higher standards among the recent classes, University President Peter Donohue’s inaugural address was very indicative of Villanova’s mission.
“We need to be a welcoming community,” Walter said. “People who might not have thought of Villanova as a viable option now do.”
Most students are responding positively to the changing image of the University, and most agree with the commitment to diversity.
“Since this school is so academically oriented, we need to get rid of the idea that only rich white kids come here, which is not true,” sophomore Samantha Chin said. “We can definitely stop the ‘VanillaNova’ stigma.”
That image had raised concerns about the comfort of minority students at Villanova, since the campus is still viewed as heavily Caucasian.
“Before I got here I was afraid that I was going to be all alone as an Asian minority,” freshman Grace Bae said. “But when I walk across campus I see people with all different ethnic backgrounds. I now feel comfortable and accepted, and I realize that my anxieties were unnecessary.”
“It is good to know that Villanova is changing to become more diverse and that our class shows it,” freshman Simool Sangoi said. “This way, minorities won’t feel singled out.”
Students express definite awareness of the University’s commitment to eliminating negative demographic perceptions and becoming a more culturally rich campus. Still, there is some concern over how realistic it may be to get rid of such a long-standing stigma.
“The fact is that Villanova is a big place that’s always changing,” freshman Felix D’Souza said. “Current students might know better, but new kids always come with the ‘VanillaNova’ perception. But our image will definitely become better, and people will see ‘Nova as a more comfortable place to apply and attend. We need to recognize that everyone is diverse regardless, so be nice to everyone.”
Members of the University’s most diverse class maintain positive attitudes to encourage change.
“I think that with more time the students at Villanova will be more culturally enlightened,” Bae said. “They’ll learn not only of differences but also similarities shared by everyone and make the school a better place.”