Minority enrollment up sharply at UW Colleges
By Judi Wittkopf
If you ask Kanyour Chang and Yee Yang, the Wisconsin Idea of bringing education to all people is alive and well at the UW Colleges.
Students of color increased by 31.6 percent this past fall at the UW Colleges-the 13 freshman/sophomore campuses of the UW System-and they now make up 6.2 percent of the Colleges' 12,431 students. The largest increases occurred at UW-Marathon County, UW-Rock County, UW-Sheboygan and UW-Waukesha.
Chang and Yang, sophomores of Asian heritage at UW-Marathon County, say being able to attend college close to home is a huge reason for the increase. Both chose to attend UW-Marathon County because of family obligations. Chang is the second oldest of 10 children, Yang the oldest of four children. They are among the 140 students of color enrolled at the Wausau campus this year, totaling 10.7 percent of the student population of 1,305.
UW-Marathon County experienced a 47.4 percent increase in students of color this year, and the number of students of color there has more than doubled since 1999. Student Services Director Nolan "Whiz" Beck attributes that to "developing a climate that offers all students of color a feeling of being wanted and appreciated. Support services play a major role, along with individuals committed to seeing students succeed."
Yang, who intends to transfer to UW-Madison, cites the recruitment process, the support of faculty and staff, and special programs like the Asian Student Organization as reasons for the growth. Students of color are also heavily involved in recruitment and retention.
"We know a lot of high school students, so we really promote this university," notes Chang, who is the multicultural director for the UW-Marathon County Student Association. Students of color mentor high school students weekly through a pre-college program on campus, assist incoming students through the ASO and tutor each other daily in the Academic Resource Center.
At UW-Sheboygan, students of color increased almost 70 percent and now make up 8 percent of the 777 students on campus. This increase is credited in large part to the addition of a multicultural recruiter and advisor, Juan Perez, who was hired last year, says Ron Campopiano, UW-Sheboygan student services director.
Perez contacts area Hmong and Hispanic association leaders and members, as well as parents and prospective students. He also works directly with high schools, meeting with principals, guidance counselors, students and their parents. On campus, Perez is collaborating with students to organize a multicultural association and create a multicultural center.
"We have broadened the scope of advising to include lots of praise, handshakes, smiles, compassion, and offers of help wherever it's needed," Perez says.
Whereas the increases have largely come from students of Asian descent at UW-Marathon County and Latino heritage at UW-Sheboygan, increases in African-American students comprise the surge in enrollment at UW-Rock County. The Janesville campus experienced a 35.8 percent increase in students of color over last year.
At UW-Waukesha, student of color enrollment is up 37.7 percent over the 2000-01 academic year. Ana San Diego, the campus pre-college coordinator and multicultural recruiter, works intensely in the high schools, and the increase has come from all student of color groups.
At UW-Marathon County, sophomore Yang praises recruiters for encouraging students of color to seek a college education and start at a UW Colleges campus.
In the past, he says, "Some students didn't even think of going to college."
Judi Wittkopf is director of university relations at UW-Marathon County. Teri Venker of UW Colleges and Juli Leet of UW-Sheboygan contributed to this story.