A diverse student body and faculty have long been cited as key elements for many of the colleges on our 2007 Best Schools for Hispanics lists.
Despite their efforts, attracting and keeping Hispanic students continue to be two of the colleges' toughest challenges – even with the explosion in the Hispanic population, there are too many graduate schools competing for too few applicants.
For Arnold Ventura, a second-year MBA candidate at Stanford's business school and the first in his family to go to college, the "culture shock" of his first semester at UC Berkeley nearly caused him to flunk out of school.
"It was such a foreign experience, being away from my family, being in a large school with not a lot of Latinos ... it was a huge challenge," he recalls. "I had the same challenges as other students, but add to that set of challenges, being a Latino. I would look around the classroom at other students who didn't have my same background, my same vocabulary, or even same language; it started to affect my confidence."
Higher education is a social as well as academic experience, so attending a campus with at least some ethnic peers and faculty can make a big difference for any student.
Finding the right school is intensely personal, and although the process can't be reduced to an equation, certain objective criteria can help. Most college rankings, including our Top 10 Business, Law, Engineering, and Medical schools lists, take into account a school's academic excellence. But the Hispanic Business lists go beyond the straight curriculum questions to look at enrollment by U.S. citizens, faculty, student services, and retention rates.
"You can never be too complacent," says Derrick Bolton, director of MBA admissions at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. "You have to keep focusing on delivering the best experience you can; I look less at other business schools and more at what our expectations are of our students. Are we exceeding their expectations or failing them?"
The business school's approach appears to be working. Stanford University's Graduate School of Business tops this year's Top 10 Business Schools, a spot it has held for the last two years. Stanford also ranks No. 2 in our medical schools list and No. 8 among our selected law schools.
Stanford's business school also recruits Hispanic students through the Charles P. Bonini Partnership for Diversity Fellowship program. Before entering the MBA program, Bonini Fellows are placed in nine- to 12-month internships with participating corporate partners, which have included Eli Lilly and General Motors. Students are paid competitive salaries, and receive full-tuition grants for two years at the business school.
This fall, Stanford's business school will launch its new MBA curriculum, which allows each student to take courses that best match their background and experience.
"In the last 15 years, we have deliberately increased the diversity in our students. What we didn't have was a curriculum that leveraged that diversity to the fullest," Mr. Bolton says. "In making that shift, we really looked closely at the needs of students and needs of the business world."
Public institutions have often outpaced the marketplace in focusing on diversity, but having the added demand by corporations for minority hires has bolstered the universities' case for inclusion.
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