Colleges across the country must face the question of how they can fairly represent campus diversity while continuing to draw in a more diverse group of students.
The University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point staff and student body face this question in their own way.
“I’ve always felt we did a really good job of not overselling things,” said Ron Strege, director of Diversity and College Access.
Strege has no concerns about recent publications sent out by the university, but admits that representing campus diversity is a balancing act. He said he thrives on honesty in his field and maintains this value in practice. Strege believes that incoming students or potential applicants want to see people who look like them in UWSP publications.
“It is vitally important for kids to feel safe and welcomed on campus,” Strege said.
Strege also said this welcome is widening.
“People that hate others are the minority here,” Strege said. He notes that it is inevitable that some people will be discouraging of others who are different than they are, but feels that most students are encouraging and supportive of one another.
Strege recalls serving 150 students in 1997, compaed to almost 900 students now. He has seen students become more accepting of the LGBTQ community in particular.
Alyssa Oltmanns, the gender and sexuality outreach coordinator, agrees.
“The climate here is so much more progressive than the world we know,” Oltmanns said.
Oltmanns said her position title, which was officially added in November 2013, says a lot about the campus community.
“My position shows that people find it relevant to offer this support,” Oltmanns said.
Oltmanns said she would love to see more outreach on campus and through her position, especially with online publications. Oltmanns has spent six years helping others meet their diverse needs.
“I definitely think we see an increased visibility of diverse populations. My dream is to see our diverse web presence amped up,” Oltmanns said.
Oltmanns believes that the UWSP homepage might create an instant emotional or mental connection for those viewing.
Both Oltmanns and Strege said that in order for incoming applicants to garner a comprehensive understanding of what they are viewing, research is critical.
“If you base your college decision on a publication, you’re being foolish,” Strege said.
Although publications may be a powerful tool in the process of college searching, Strege believes that at the end of the day it is just a piece of paper. Strege advises incoming students to seek out current students, ask questions and get answers.
Oltmanns feels similarly and believes that people are quick to pull up what is convenient when browsing webpages.
“You need to get to the heart of places on campus and meet people who have your heart and your passions and your interests,” Oltmanns said.
Oltmanns said that is a very self-investigative process.
Blair Williams, the public relations coordinator for the Black Student Union and Burroughs Hall residence advisor, feels that diversity needs to become an even bigger part of the campus system and that the university is continuously expanding.
“As a residence hall advisor, I think it is vital to have community. Diversity goes beyond color,” Williams said.
Williams feels that it is important to include various races, backgrounds and orientations in campus publications.
“We can’t say we’re diverse if everyone is not included. We have to try and include everyone,” Williams said.
“We often fear that we are alone in facing diversity. We need to keep raising our voices, being brave, getting comfortable and creating community,” Oltmanns said.
Oltmanns’ opinion is encouraging. If it is any indication of what is to come with campus diversity representation, UWSP may have a lot to look forward to with future publications.