From IWU Magazine, Fall 2012 edition
The incoming first-year class is Illinois Wesleyan's most diverse ever.
Students had a chance to relax and unwind at karaoke night during MALANA orientation
Story by KIM HILL
August 27 marked the first day of college classes for the Class of 2016, the most
diverse Illinois Wesleyan University has ever celebrated.
In all, 528 young adults are new to campus this fall, including 105 MALANA students.
MALANA is an acronym for IWU’s racially underrepresented population: students who
identify themselves as multiracial, African-American, Latino-American, Asian-American,
or Native American. In addition, 25 new international students enrolled this fall
at Illinois Wesleyan.
The Class of 2016 marks the most successful result of the University’s efforts to
create a more diverse campus, said Tony Bankston ’91, dean of admissions. “We wanted
to create a campus where students were not all from the same place or background or
Wesleyan’s diversity goal, endorsed by the Board of Trustees in 2004, strives to create
“a welcoming, inclusive, multicultural campus where all community members appreciate
and respect the diversity of the nation and the world,” according to the University’s
Strategies identified in the plan to increase and sustain a diverse campus include
recruiting and retaining a diverse student body, with emphasis on racial and ethnic
“By taking a closer look at the types of students who do well here, we were mindful
to look for them in places we hadn’t explored before,” Bankston added. “We asked ourselves,
‘How do we present the benefits of IWU to a wider and more diverse population?’ We
wanted to cast a wider net.”
One example of the “wider net” is the Chicago Public Schools system. “We have dedicated
the resources for visits and college fairs there that could yield students who bring
the richness of their backgrounds to our campus,” Bankston explained.
Another example is Wesleyan’s College Quest program, which assists capable students
from Chicago and other districts in searching and applying to colleges.
“In the recruitment process we attempt to be very open about the college experience
at Wesleyan,” said Bankston. “We get prospective students in contact with others of
Many members of the Class of 2016 started their college experiences by attending MALANA
student orientation or the Emerging Diversity program. Held in August prior to orientation
for all new students, MALANA orientation offers incoming students the opportunity
to meet current Titans, faculty and staff, and provides them with the resources to
have a successful first year.
“This program offers MALANA students a chance to connect with people with whom they
have a cultural affinity, so they can build a network from a level of comfort,” said
The Emerging Diversity program, launched in 2010, invites interested white students
from the incoming class to help them understand and meaningfully engage diversity
while at Illinois Wesleyan.
Recruitment and retention of a more diverse student body has been aided by the programming
and mission of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. George E. Jackson III
(above) became OMSA director in July.
Such efforts, combined with the strength of the staff at the University’s Office of
Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA), have contributed to a freshman-to-sophomore
retention rate of 89 percent among MALANA students, Bankston said. (Freshman-to-sophomore
retention ratio for the overall student body is 90 percent.) The OMSA assists students
in their educational and personal development and works to foster a campuswide appreciation
for diversity and a shared understanding of different cultures.
Bankston adds that the average American College Test (ACT) composite score for first-year
students is 28 out of a possible 36, a statistic that has remained the same as the
student body has grown more diverse. Similarly, students in the Class of 2016 on average
ranked in the top 15 percent of their high school graduating classes, a percentage
consistent with entering classes in years past.
Adding to the geographic diversity are new students this year from 18 states and 12
countries including China, Nigeria, Colombia and Morocco. At the New Student Convocation,
Karla Carney-Hall, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, praised
the students for their variety of talents and experiences, noting that the new class
included: a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq, a student who spent 45 days in northern
Canada with no cell phone, a young woman who took a gap year aboard a Mercy Ship delivering
aid to Africa and a student who has 20,000 followers on Facebook.
The distinctions among the students in the Class of 2016 reflect the University’s
underlying goal of a more diverse campus. “The world can be viewed from hundreds or
even thousands of lenses,” Bankston said. “A person understands more about the world
if he or she has experienced more of the world. How much richer the experience if
you view the world from more than your own lens.
“We expect our alumni to go out and change the world in a truly positive way,” Bankston
added. “At the very least, they will need to live and learn with people of diverse
backgrounds. How can we expect them to do that if our own campus does not?”
Click here to visit the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs website.