Weber State University has promoted itself as a school that values and encourages diversity among its students. With many resources for students from all walks of life, there’s a place and help for everyone.

WSU's student diversity numbers broken down.
WSU's student diversity numbers broken down. Photo credit: Blythe Evans

But how diverse is WSU? Records from the Office of Institutional Research are available to the public on WSU’s website and show the demographics of campus population, from age to credit hour load and from gender to ethnicity.

Institutional Analyst Juan Chavez said diversity numbers can change every day as students drop or add classes or change departments or schools. For consistency, the numbers WSU captures to report to the government and public always come from the third week of the fall semester.

It should also be noted that, unlike other Utah higher education institutions, WSU is an open enrollment school, meaning everyone who applies to the university is accepted.

As of the third week of fall 2020, there were 29,596 students at WSU. 16,846 (57%) were female and 12,750 (43%) were male. 12,432 (42%) were full-time students and 17,165 (58%) were part-time.

The racial and ethnic diversity of WSU’s students for fall 2020 were the following: 396 (1.3%) were Black or African American; 509 (1.7%) were Asian; 155 (0.5%) were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; 128 (0.4%) were Native American or Alaskan Native; 3,265 (11%) were Hispanic or Latinx; 22,018 (74.4%) were white; 1,028 (3.5%) were multiracial; and 1,829 (6.2%) were unreported. There were also 268 (0.9%) international students.

These numbers are fairly similar to the racial and ethnic demographics of Utah and Ogden.

According to the United States Census Bureau’s website, as of July 2019, the estimated population of Utah was 3,205,958. Of this, 77.8% of the population was white; 14.4% was Hispanic or Latinx; 1.5% was Black or African American; 1.6% was Native American or Alaskan Native; 2.7% was Asian; 1.1% was Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; and 2.6% was multiracial.

According to the United States Census Bureau’s website, as of July 2019, the estimated population of Ogden was 87,773. Of this, 61.3% of the population was white; 31.9% was Hispanic or Latinx; 1.9% was Black or African American; 1.2% was Native American or Alaskan Native; 1.2% was Asian; 0.3% was Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; and 3.9% was multiracial.

There are measures that WSU takes to promote diversity and recruit diverse students. Enrique Romo, assistant vice president for student affairs, who oversees access and diversity, explained that they use federal grant programs at middle and high school levels such as TRIO Upward Bound and TRIO Talent Search, as well as their Ogden GEAR UP and state GEAR UP programs to serve students in need.

“These work with historically underrepresented, underserved, low-income, first-generation and ethnically diverse students to give them college knowledge as well as opportunities to realize their college aspirations,” Romo said. “They give students the tools they need to successfully graduate high school and then transition over to postsecondary institutions.”

After admission, Romo said the programs like College Access and First-year Transitions, the Center for Multicultural Excellence, diversity and inclusivity programs, peer mentoring, the LGBT Resource Center and Center for Community Engagement try to ensure students feel connected to campus and give them a sense of belonging.

“We want them to be proud of who they are as well as with their traditions, costumes and backgrounds,” Romo said. “We celebrate their uniqueness by acknowledging their identities and their communities.”

Romo said they also center their work using an equity lens which aligns with institutional goals, helping them address issues of structural racism.

The institutional profile reports from Institutional Research also show the demographics of each college at WSU. Again, these statistics are as of the third week of the fall 2020 semester.

Lindquist College of Arts and Humanities had 1,686 students, 589 (34.9%) of which were male and 1,097 (65.1%) female. The racial and ethnic diversity of the college was comprised of the following: 35 (2.1%) were Black or African American; 15 (0.9%) were Asian; 5 (0.3%) were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; 13 (0.8%) were Native American or Alaskan Native; 192 (11.4%) were Hispanic or Latinx; 1,278 (75.8%) were white; 46 (2.7%) were multiracial; and 66 (3.9%) were unreported. There were also 36 (2.1%) international students.

Goddard School of Business and Economics had 1,900 students: 1,212 (63.8%) of which were male and 688 (36.2%) female. Thirty-one (1.6%) were Black or African American; 44 (2.3%) were Asian; 15 (0.8%) were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; 3 (0.2%) were Native American or Alaskan Native; 200 (10.5%) were Hispanic or Latinx; 1,330 (70%) were white; 72 (3.8%) were multiracial; and 141 (7.4%) unreported. There were also 64 (3.4%) international students.

Moyes College of Education had 1,680 students, 419 (24.9%) of which were male and 1,261 (75.1%) female. Twenty-one (1.3%) were Black or African American; 13 (0.8%) were Asian; 12 (0.7%) were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; 10 (0.6%) were Native American or Alaskan Native; 183 (10.9%) were Hispanic or Latinx; 1,222 (72.7%) were white; 72 (4.3%) were multiracial; and 127 (7.6%) unreported. There were also 20 (1.2%) international students.

The College of Engineering, Applied Science and Technology had 2,996 students, 2,449 (81.7%) of which were male and 547 (18.2%) female. Fifty-one (1.7%) were Black or African American; 69 (2.3%) were Asian; 16 (0.5%) were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; 13 (0.4%) were Native American or Alaskan Native; 299 (8%) were Hispanic or Latinx; 2,262 (75.5%) were white; 99 (3.3%) were multiracial; and 118 (3.9%) unreported. There were also 69 (2.3%) international students.

Dumke College of Health Professions had 4,647 students, 1,000 (21.5%) of which were male and 3,647 (78.5%) female. Seventy-seven (1.7%) were Black or African American; 126 (2.7%) were Asian; 23 (0.5%) were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; 33 (0.7%) were Native American or Alaskan Native; 562 (12.1%) were Hispanic or Latinx; 3,377 (72.7%) were white; 144 (3.1%) were multiracial; and 267 (5.7%) unreported. There were also 38 (0.8%) international students.

The College of Science had 1,233 students, 559 (45.3%) of which were male and 674 (54.7%) female. Sixteen (1.3%) were Black or African American; 21 (1.7%) were Asian; 5 (0.4%) were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; 8 (0.6%) were Native American or Alaskan Native; 141 (11.4%) were Hispanic or Latinx; 932 (75.6%) were white; 58 (4.7%) were multiracial; and 39 (3.2%) unreported. There were also 13 (1.1%) international students.

The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences had 2,123 students, 721 (34%) of which were male and 1,402 (66%) female. Fifty-five (2.6%) were Black or African American; 19 (0.9%) were Asian; 13 (0.6%) were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; 18 (0.8%) were Native American or Alaskan Native; 383 (18%) were Hispanic or Latinx; 1,464 (69%) were white; 94 (4.4%) multiracial; and 64 (3%) unreported. There were also 13 (0.6%) international students.

Finally, there were 13,331 General Studies or Bachelor of Integrated Studies students, 5,801 (43.5%) of which were male and 7,530 (56.5%) female. One-hundred-ten (0.8%) were Black or African American; 202 (1.5%) were Asian; 66 (0.5%) were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; 30 (0.2%) were Native American or Alaskan Native; 1,305 (9.8%) were Hispanic or Latinx; 10,153 (76.2%) were white; 443 (3.3%) were multiracial; and 1,007 (7.6%) unreported. There were also 15 (0.1%) international students.

Institutional Record’s Institutional Profile can also display the varying percentages of records of specific programs and the change in diversity over time.

While diversity can’t be forced, the different colleges still strive to do their own part to promote and recruit diversity in their programs.

For example, Alicia Ingersoll, assistant professor and chair of the Goddard School of Business and Economics’s newly launched committee for equity, diversity and inclusion, said they are working to develop programs for outreach to women to improve gender diversity within their programs. The college also has been improving their outreach to the Latinx community, especially taking into account the Ogden community’s higher Hispanic and Latinx percentage.

Ingersoll also said the college is exploring new faculty-recruiting avenues with its search committees to improve diversity within its hiring pools. They’re also working on an addition to the tenure and promotion document which will “require faculty to address their efforts to increase equity, diversity and inclusion [EDI] within their teaching, research and service,” Ingersoll said.

Ingersoll said while there’s still more work to do, the college is celebrating the progress and success they’ve had in nearly doubling the enrollment of women into the Master of Business Administration program, putting them in line with the national average for women in MBA programs.

“We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us at the Goddard School in order to reach our goals related to EDI,” Ingersoll said. “However, we are committed to progress and putting in place actionable plans to meet our objectives.”

Attendees of the Sister Circle listen as other attendees introduce themselves. (Kalie Pead/ The Signpost)
Attendees of the Sister Circle listen as other attendees introduce themselves. (Kalie Pead/ The Signpost)

In Lindquist College, focuses on diversity are handled more by individual departments.

For example, Hal Crimmel, professor and chair of the English department, said that in summer 2020 the department created a Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force to look at curriculum, course content, hiring, marketing, recruitment, retention, scholarships and student engagement. Crimmel said the department’s identified strengths include curriculum, speaker series and course materials, while areas for improvement include marketing, targeted diversity scholarships and new faculty hiring.

Crimmel also said the English department’s majors are about 75% female and 25% male, so they’re currently specifically working on identifying ways to attract more male students.

Kayla Griffin, instructor and chair of the Communication department’s diversity committee, said the department is working on extensive plans of goals, objectives and activities to both recruit and retain diversity, as well as create a sense of community. With these future events they hope to create more relationships with and work with other diversity organizations in the community and on campus.

Griffin said, while most of their current ideas are still in planning stage and are not yet approved, the department has seen progress and success with the speech and debate team.

The speech and debate team was created to give students the opportunity to learn to speak about important issues they’re passionate about. Because of COVID-19, all of their recent debates have been virtual, but usually, they travel around the United States to debate their topics. This travel is completely paid for by the department so the students can participate without financial worry.

Griffin said they’re always looking for social and diversity issues that aren’t really being addressed anywhere else to use and talk about in their curriculum, mentioning that the communication department is equipped to teach skills in protest communication, conflict management, debate and argumentation, public speaking and more.

She said they strive to promote diversity not just with their committee but through their curriculum, social and community engagement and getting students involved.

“We do it by making sure our students are involved in every step of the way, because we can’t fix a problem unless we understand what the problem is,” Griffin said. “And if we care about our students, our students should be the ones who are leading it, so it’s fostering that environment for them to lead it.”

Griffin said diversity is more than just race and gender, but also includes age, religion, neurodiversity, cultural background, political ideas and more.

She specifically talked about a focus in the communication department on neurodiversity, providing opportunities for those with anxiety, depression and autism to still be able to learn the skills the department teaches.

Jenny Kokai, associate professor and Department of Performing Arts chair, said the department’s three distinct areas — theatre, dance and music — all do their separate recruiting and efforts to promote diversity.

Students pinned where they were from on the map. (Israel Campa / The Signpost)
Students pinned where they were from on the map. (Israel Campa / The Signpost)

Kokai said it’s critical in the theatre department to choose plays and cast plays in a way that represents the diversity at WSU. She said the professionalized discrimination of casting people based on “types” or who “fits” the part visually, intentionally or unintentionally, has been too common for too long in theatre, and WSU’s program is not interested in replicating or continuing the practice.

Kokai said they also strive to read plays from all kinds of authors around the world, not just for representation, “but because how do you try to understand an art form if you’re not looking at the many ways people have approached it?”

Kokai said the dance program also has many partnerships with under-represented groups. For example, a couple of years ago the Moving Company did a piece based on interviews with Ogden Latinx community members.

“In theatre, I feel that if prospective students do not see anyone who looks like them or read works from people who share their perspectives, why would they choose to come be a part of our department?” Kokai said.

Kokai also remarked that diversity is more than just recruitment of diverse peoples, but also making sure the environment is safe and welcoming to all.

“Recruiting diverse folks is great, but if the climate is hostile to them when they get here, that’s its own kind of bad,” Kokai said. “So it is a two-pronged effort: improve the climate here so all students feel included and that their education is equitable, and improve recruitment of students.”

As Ingersoll said, there’s still much to do to improve diversity within the university, but there are already some visible achievements. As Griffin described, progress can already be seen year by year through students’ conversations and projects, and by the fact that the university is willing to face the problem and treat it. Continuing efforts toward growth in diversity will be important for WSU.

“When we engage and are a part of diverse communities, we learn from each other across differences,” LGBT Resource Center Coordinator Jayson Stokes said. “We expand our view of the world and come to understand ourselves and others better. We learn to think in a more holistic and inclusive way.”

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