11/10/2012 07:55 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

CU-Boulder Freshman Class Most Diverse In Campus History

The freshman class at the University of Colorado is the most diverse in campus history, with 1,199 U.S. students of color making up 22 percent of the Class of 2016.

The university has a number of programs that help build a diverse incoming class -- ranging from a growing pre-collegiate program that begins prepping middle-school students who will be the first in their families to go to college to a "diversity sampler" that hosts potential students for lectures, campus tours and a campus life information fair.

Although CU officials say they're proud of the growth in diversity, they acknowledge there is much more work to do so that CU's student body better reflects the state's demographics.

When considering only Colorado students, minority students make up 26 percent of the in-state freshman class -- an increase of 20 percent over the past five years, according to Chancellor Phil DiStefano.

But that compares with 33 percent among Colorado public high school graduates. DiStefano announced that he wants the Boulder campus to erase that gap by 2020.

This is the third year in a row that CU has been improving the diversity in its freshman class, reaching an all-time high this fall. Overall minority enrollment at CU-Boulder has reached 5,232 students, a 13 percent increase since 2010, according to campus statistics. During the same time period, minority enrollment in the freshman class has grown 19 percent.

"We're really proud of the numbers in our freshman class," said CU Admissions Director Kevin MacLennan. "For the last three years, we've continually had a more diverse class. We want to point out that in no way, shape or form do we think that our work is done. We want to continue making the campus more diverse."

To help foster diversity, DiStefano said he wants to increase the number of minority faculty members and graduate students. CU's pre-collegiate program is expanding to work more with students on the Western Slope.

CU also continually applies for grants to help expand programs such as the Leadership, Excellence, Achievement and Diversity Alliance -- known as CU-Lead -- which enrolls students in "academic neighborhoods" and offers small classes, research experiences, close work with professors, mentoring, tutoring and scholarships.

Alphonse Keasley, an assistant vice chancellor from CU's Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement, said smaller residential academic programs on campus also help incoming students find their niches.

"Once students are here, we try to create a welcoming space and help students find their place here," he said. "We have all these small communities engaging students."

Recently, there's been discussion among the Black Student Alliance, the Black Alumni Association and black faculty and staff members to come together to create a more welcoming community for students year-round -- perhaps by offering cultural events and scholarship opportunities, Keasley said.

Kevin Vu, a CU student who is studying electrical engineering and computer science, is an officer with the Asian Unity student club on campus.

Vu, from Colorado Springs, said he originally came to CU for its engineering program and its proximity to the mountains so he could snowboard on the weekends. But becoming involved in campus groups has been what's kept him on campus -- ranging from a multicultural fraternity that raises money for hurricane victims to helping organize the Taste of Asia, which draws 2,000 people in the spring.

"After I came to CU, the involvement with other student groups is what kept me interested," he said. "I don't want to leave because I feel like I'm making a difference here."

Vu has also helped out at an admissions event, talking about his own experiences to students considering CU. The Asian Unity group holds a welcome event the first week of classes and an end-of-the year barbecue to which incoming freshmen are invited.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or ___

(c)2012 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.)

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