Tennessee universities take steps to recruit more Hispanics - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Tennessee universities take steps to recruit more Hispanics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Universities across Tennessee are taking steps to recruit more Hispanics to diversify their student bodies, officials say.

A recent study showed nearly half of Hispanic undergraduates attend about 8 percent of universities in the United States.

The study, conducted by Washington-based Excelencia in Education, a Hispanic issues think tank, found that Hispanic undergraduates were concentrated in the country's universities where at least 25 percent of undergraduates are Hispanic.

None of those is in Tennessee. To remedy that, university officials have hired Hispanic advisers, increased visibility in the Hispanic community and begun contacting prospective students earlier in their careers even before they reach high school.

The initiatives are welcome news for students like Alejandra Gonzalez, who left her hometown of El Paso, Texas for Vanderbilt University this fall. "It was a really big culture shock for me," said Gonzalez, a freshman human organizational development major.

"I think that I knew there weren't going to be (many) Hispanics, but I didn't imagine there was going to be none."

Doug Christiansen, dean of admissions at Vanderbilt, said the school is increasing efforts to attract minority students, including Hispanics, as early as seventh grade to expand the pool of eligible students.

The school works with students to ensure they stay on track with their grades and take necessary classes in high school to be eligible for admission.

Vanderbilt saw its Hispanic undergraduate enrollment rise from 339 students last year to 362 this semester, officials said. At Tennessee State University, recruiter Jose Vazquez arrived at the school about a year ago partially to attract Hispanics, including adult nontraditional students.

"I've been dealing with different Hispanic leaders out in the community, and they know that it is important for the Latino community here in Nashville to strive for education," Vazquez said.

Belmont University officials also have increased recruitment efforts in the Nashville Hispanic community through hosting events with the YMCA's Hispanic Achievers program, as well as an annual Latin street festival on campus.

"For us, the long-range way of increasing our minority population is to reach out to the communities around us," said Belmont Provost Dan McAlexander.

At the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, officials are planning recruitment programs targeting Hispanics, including campus visits geared exclusively to Hispanics, spokeswoman Amy Blakely said. This year, UT's freshman class included 73 Hispanics, or 1.7 percent of the school's incoming class.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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