There has been a slight incline in student diversity at Hendrix this year. Fall 2017 semester enrollment shows that there are 69 Hispanic and Latino students, virtually the same from last year. This year, the entire student body has 93 African-American students, which is twenty more people than the year before. These changes, although gradual, may be due to the new efforts that have been placed on diversity and inclusion in the past few years.
Dr. Dionne Jackson, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, has many projects in the works that are aimed to improve the number of racial minorities on campus. Some of the main initiatives she has helped launch are several new scholarship programs, such as The Kipp and Delta Arkansas Commitment scholarship programs. These scholarships look into three cohorts of students who are eligible for Federal Pell grants. Seventy percent of the students who receive these grants are students of color and have also helped contribute to income diversity, exposing high school students to the liberal arts.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion has also developed the Hendrix Aspire Scholarship, which draws in students from schools in Little Rock such as Catholic High School for Boys, Mount Saint Mary, Pulaski Academy and Episcopal Collegiate.
The second major scholarship is the LULAC scholarship which has supported students who work directly with the admissions office.
Dominique Kelleybrew, Class of 2007 and Coordinator of Multicultural Student Services, notes that there were few people of color when he attended Hendrix.
“Now, there are so many black students they don’t all have to be friends,” he said.
This year’s freshman class has 45 students of color, twice as many as last year. Dr. Jackson pointed out that although diversity has improved this year, there are other mitigating factors which have made the increase possible. First, enrollment is lower this year than previous years. Secondly, the forty-five number is based on how students self-identify.
Kelleybrew also noted that other political, religious, and cultural groups have become larger since his time as a student. For example, the Muslims Students Association is now 5-6 years old, with a larger number of members. Part of Kelleybrew’s job as coordinator of Multicultural Student Services is to provide a safe space for students of all backgrounds. Now, one out of every three events are a multicultural event.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is only in its second year, but Hendrix is the first in the Associated Colleges of the South to have a Chief Diversity Officer.
“In the 90’s we saw a need for an office like this the president was petitioned the year after I graduated,” Dr. Jackson said. “It was one of the best moves they could make was to create this office. Alumni have always wanted an office like this to talk about issues that affect campus culture.”
One thing that has not changed since Dr. Jackson’s time as a student, and one which remains a concern, is the numbers of the faculty of color at Hendrix.
“Faculty recruitment is the biggest deal,” she said.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is always looking for effective ways of recruiting faculty of color. There are also newfound efforts to work with career services, financial aid, and alumni. For example, Dr. Jackson is helping human resources staff with bias training. This involves teaching them to examine implicit and explicit bias during hiring. She helps train search committee chairs and directly connects with candidates from underrepresented groups to connect with Hendrix. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion reaches out to first generation students and supports their journey at Hendrix.
One of the major goals of Dr. Jackson’s office is the inclusion aspect of the program. Dr. Jackson wants to improve campus culture by training people on diversity. One of these training sessions happened in September when Jessica Pettitt, a diversity trainer, was invited to lead Safe Zone training and other inclusive-related workshops.
Dr. Jackson expressed satisfaction with student efforts to work together as a community. “When I talk to other schools they are impressed with our community involvement,” she said. “We try to weave diversity into everything we do.”