Diversity -->Undoubtedly, 2009 will go down as a year of major diversity triumphs.
The first African-American president took office and Sonia Sotamayor has become the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.
In an era when diversity has emerged as a top priority nationwide, leading universities are educating and preparing the next generation of multi-cultural and multi-ethnic leaders in all walks of life.
In that context, HispanTelligence, the research arm of HispanicBusiness Magazine, assessed the diversity records of top graduate schools in the areas of keen interest to Hispanics: Engineering, Medicine, Law and Business.
Instead of looking at diversity as a federal requirement, these schools embrace it as a means of educational enrichment. Using factors such as enrollment and percentage of degrees earned by Hispanics, the numbers show that Hispanics are steadily making educational strides, while universities are also doing more outreach to them.
Of the top 40 graduate schools for Hispanics, 30 hailed from Texas, Florida, California, and New Mexico. Texas and Florida had the most, each possessing 10 of the most diverse graduate programs in the nation. No schools from the Northwestern U.S. made the list.
"Our population is soon to be majority minority," said Felicia Benton-Johnson, the director of Diversity at the Georgia Institute of Technology, College of Engineering, the No. 1 engineering school on the HispanicBusiness Magazine list. "As diversity nationally increases, so will the need to have leaders and professionals who reflect this same burgeoning diversity."
Still, much work remains to be done.
Graduate School Obstacles
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 13 percent of Hispanics over the age of 25 complete four years of college or more. Of that number, only 3.6 percent go on to receive a masters, professional or doctoral degree. These are the lowest statistics of all ethnic groups, according to Census data.
Many factors contribute to the gap. First-generation Hispanic youth are the worst off educationally. Their drop-out rate from grade school is the highest, and too often grow up feeling an obligation to pay back their families and communities by immediately jumping into the workforce.
Many factors make recruiting minorities a difficult task, but the economic one is certainly a key factor. It requires a multi-pronged strategy; each of the No. 1 universities in the four disciplines has developed their own recruiting methodologies to obtain and maintain their institution's diversity enrollment goals.
The Stanford University School of Medicine ranked No. 1 on HispanicBusiness Magazine's list of top medical schools for diversity. Hannah Valantine, the senior associate dean of Diversity and Leadership at the university, said summer programs, camps, and internships offered to undergraduates and high school students have been instrumental in Stanford's ability to reach minorities.
The medical school has had a difficult time attracting minorities, notably into its residency program. Summer research internships, Ms. Valantine said, and programs for both high school and undergraduate students work the best to create interest in higher education at Stanford and builds student-faculty relationships through one-on-one interaction.
"Diversity is an issue that goes beyond equal opportunity," said Ms. Valantine. "It is about how we maintain our university." Minority patients feel more comfortable when their resident physicians are of diverse backgrounds, a factor that further motivates the school to bolster its diversity.
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