By Sarah Anthony, Contributing Writer
According to Esther Jadhav, the Director of Intercultural Programs, 85 percent of Asbury’s student body is Caucasian and 15 percent of students belong to an ethnic minority group, up 6 percent since the fall of 2012.
“Numbers wise, it’s averaging at about 20 or so students per ethnic group,” said Jadhav. According to Jadhav, around 25 international students attend Asbury.
“I have noticed an increase in diversity,” said sophomore Melina Martinez. “But [we should] move forward and push for more students to come. You can’t just say, ‘We’ve done well so far.’ You say, ‘This is what we have, and we’re going to make it better.’”
“One of the challenges is the lack of diversity on campus,” said Jadhav, who hopes to see Asbury’s minority and international populations grow. “(International students) feel appreciated and welcomed, but they still feel misunderstood.”
In addition to tackling that challenge, Jadhav wants to get all students on campus to acknowledge diversity.
“We need to find a way to talk about the issues of race and ethnicity or the issues of culture and ethnicity,” Jadhav said. “We need to have more platforms to talk about the matters of ethnicity, race and culture. We all need to be engaged in a common conversation on these matters.”
Chelsea Griffith, a graduate student and program assistant for the Intercultural Department, says that Asbury plans to focus on the local aspect of diversity.
“We want people to know how they can identify and be culturally sensitive, starting here on campus,” she said.
Local diversity not only means focusing on the issues that are prominent in the United States, but also understanding the challenges that ethnic and international students face here on campus. According to Martinez, it is hard for someone from another country to be on a campus where no one looks like them. Minorities and internationals are faced with challenge of adjusting to a new environment and not being understood.
Jadhav says that holding dialogues on diversity issues here on campus is one way to make things better and that plans for more Diversity Dialogues are already in the works.
“We want to increase dialogue about matters of ethnic and cultural diversity,” she says. “We want to bring about awareness and understanding of our differences in order to work better with each other.”
“Having diversity opens perspectives, enhances worldviews and creates room to discuss issues that are sensitive but educational,” agreed Joshua Kulah, an international student from Liberia who graduated last year. Kulah was very involved with the Intercultural Programs department while he studied at Asbury.
“My experience with diversity helped me to be able to properly understand and explain what I stand for,” he says. “I was able to question my general assumptions and solidify my beliefs because of exposure to diversity.”