NKU honored for its commitment to diversity

Posted at 5:00 AM, Sep 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-21 05:00:23-04

Northern Kentucky University has earned a national award for its commitment to diversity.

Minority Access — a national nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing diversity, decreasing disparities and reducing incidences of environmental injustices — will recognize NKU this week as one of 37 colleges and universities from around the country that is “committed to diversity for 2015.”

According to Minority Access, NKU is the only college or university in the region receiving the award, which schools can apply for each year by submitting information that showcases their commitment to diversity.

Applications are judged based on how much each school is doing to prepare for the ever-increasing numbers of minority students entering America’s colleges and universities, said Andrea Mickle, Minority Access president.

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found that from 1976 to 2012 nationwide, the percentage of Hispanic students rose from 4 percent to 15 percent; the percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students rose from 2 percent to 6 percent; the percentage of black students rose from 10 percent to 15 percent; and the percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native students rose from 0.7 percent to 0.9 percent.

During that same period, the percentage of white students fell from 84 percent to 60 percent.

“We want to see if these institutions are preparing for this thrust of minority students,” Mickle said.

Kathleen Roberts, senior advisor to the president for inclusive excellence at NKU, wrote NKU’s application for the Minority Access recognition. She said the school is committed to embedding diversity, equity and inclusion into its core processes and achieved the honor by implementing both student-focused and faculty- and staff-focused initiatives.

Two student-focused initiatives that have seen success since they were created are NKU R.O.C.K.S. – a yearlong mentorship program to help first-year African-American students transition from high school to college – and its sister program for Latino students, LAMP (Latino Mentor Program).

NKU R.O.C.K.S. has grown from 13 students when it was formed in 2003 to 84 students in the fall of 2014. The program’s retention rate is 84.5 percent, significantly higher than the 55.1 percent retention rate for African-American students who don’t participate.

LAMP has grown from 19 students when it was formed in 2008 to 93 students in the fall of 2014. The program’s retention rate is 80 percent, higher than the 68.8 percent retention rate for Latino students who don’t participate.

Other, newer initiatives implemented since Roberts came to NKU in August 2014 include a “world café” — called the “Inclusive Excellence Café” — in NKU’s student union this past spring to facilitate dialogue around diversity and inclusion, a faculty-led effort called The Great Divide to educate and offer solutions on economic inequality, a collaboration with Kentucky postsecondary education representatives to develop an ongoing educational program for cultural competency, and a 2020 diversity plan slated for kickoff next fall.

“We work very hard to bring faculty, staff and students together as a collective to create culture change,” Roberts said.

Other actions NKU took that helped it win recognition were the revision of its faculty search process to ensure NKU is increasing the diversity of its applicant pool, as well as the creation of a center for student inclusiveness that houses the school’s disability, African-American, Latino and LGBTQ programs and services under one roof, she said.

The formation of the Center for Student Inclusiveness provides more opportunity for collaboration, said NKU Assistant Vice President for Student Inclusiveness Dannie Moore.

“It’s a way to really embed diversity and inclusion into the core of student affairs,” he said.

Moore will accept the award on behalf of NKU at Minority Access’ Sixteenth National Role Models Conference Sept. 25 through Sept. 27 in Baltimore.