By Seriah Sargenton
The newest Golden Knights, which include 821 freshmen and transfer students, is the most diverse class since Saint Rose was founded in 1920.
A third of the Class of 2021 identify as first-generation college students, and 52 percent of students identify as a person of color according to Jennifer Gish, director of marketing and communications at the College.
Teaching students about cultural competence and diversity is one of the goals of the College’s strategic plan for 2016 to 2020. The plan’s main pillars are global connectedness, student success, comprehensive institution, culture of innovation and creativity, and strengthened finances. Global connectedness plays a key role in each part of the College’s plan to diversify the faculty, student body, and administration.
The incoming class represents 30 countries and 21 states, which includes Guam, Washington, and The District of Columbia, according to Gish. As part of using global connectedness to create diversity, the College has implemented the Signature Learning and Leadership Experience for incoming students to teach them to be leaders who are culturally competent in the workforce, according to President Carolyn J Stefanco.
“It’s important that we create an open environment where students don’t just succeed, but they thrive,” Stefanco said. “Saint Rose will continue to reflect modern America and our founders.”
Stefanco wants to give incoming students the same opportunities to higher education that the founders gave other women in the early 20th century. According to Stefanco, the sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet did not exclude anyone from the community based on religion or race. The sisters allowed Jewish women to attend the institution to help them succeed and practice their faith, according to Stefanco.
The times may have changed, but the college carries the values of the sisters into the present day. To support the diverse student body, the College is making efforts to hire staff more reflective of the different ethnicities and races, religions, and mindsets of the students. The College wants to make students feel welcomed by hiring staff who represent the various kinds of students attending the college said Mary Grondahl, vice president for enrollment and marketing at the College.
Marketing efforts are focused on ensuring that there is a staff that is bilingual, of different ethnicities and racial backgrounds, religions, sexual orientations, and gender, according to Grondahl. Part of her job is overseeing admission counselors who can recruit students. The college is recruiting internationally in countries such as China, Columbia, Ecuador, Vietnam, Korea and India.
“We must have diverse thoughts in classrooms,” said Grondahl.
Diversity is of importance to many members of the Saint Rose community. A statement of inclusion was created several years ago by members of the inclusive excellence committee to ensure that students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, religion, sexual orientations, and gender felt welcomed at the college. The following is the statement was provided by Shai Butler, vice president for student success and engagement and chief diversity officer at the College.
“The College of Saint Rose is a diverse learning community that fosters integrity, interdependence, and mutual respect. Inclusive Excellence supports the advancement of reciprocal cultural sensitivity across campus, in order to build a culture that promotes the appreciation of diversity in every aspect of the College and the surrounding community. We are a place that values diversity, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and expression, socio-economic status, religion, ability, age, veteran status, and nationality. Our institutional approach to Inclusive Excellence describes a quality of academic and professional experiences that are realized when all individuals have an equal opportunity to succeed. Inclusive Excellence infuses diversity into the institution’s recruiting, admissions, and hiring processes; curriculum and co-curriculum; and administrative structures and practices. Inclusive Excellence is central to our role as an engaged urban institution with a rich array of liberal arts and professional programs. This approach, grounded in our Catholic heritage, provides opportunities for greater learning, understanding, and growth for all of our students within local, national and global contexts.”
Butler said it was important to talk about diversity not just among students, but also faculty and school administrators. By teaching students how important diversity is, students are preparing themselves for the workforce. The College wants students to be prepared to meet individuals who may not be like them.
“It’s about cultural competency. Being overt as an institution that we want to diversify,” said Butler.