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OSU president Ed Ray, vice president of diversity and inclusion Charlene Alexander and spokesperson Steve Clark at The Skanner News
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 14 February 2019

In a Feb. 7 address at the Oregon Convention Center, Oregon State University President Ed Ray emphasized the importance of improving diversity at the school – and called on state government to provide more funding for higher education.

Touting the university’s five-year roadmap launched in January, Ray said the university plans to help “transform society” with research and innovation and offer “success for all people regardless of their race, gender, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or identity – or economic circumstances.”

“At Oregon State, we believe that excellence is achieved through diversity in all that we do and for all that we serve.

"Thanks to the leadership of our Office of Institutional Diversity, we are making great strides in becoming a more inclusive university, but we know that we have more work to do. We ralize the more diverse and inclusive we are, the more excellent we will be,” Ray said. 

In a conversation with The Skanner News staff later on Feb. 7, Ray and diversity chair Charlene Alexander talked about ways in which the university is working to recruit and retain minority students and other students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Some highlights and key numbers:

  • Improved cultural centers. The university’s five cultural centers for minority students have been rebuilt and in one case renamed, with input from students in the communities represented. “We still have so many problems it’s unbelievable, but it helps if students know there’s a place for them that’s special,” Ray told The Skanner.
  • All cultural centers include a large gathering room for events. The Lonnie B. Harris Cultural Center hosts a monthly Soul Food Sunday, Alexander said, and she typically cooks.
  • Between 2014 and 2018, the number of African American faculty and staff has increased by 15 percent, Alexander said.
  • More than 25 percent of students at OSU are students of color, Ray said in his address.
  • The six-year graduation rate for all students is 68 percent. For students from underrepresented groups, that number is 58 percent. The university has set a goal of closing that gap, and has set a target of 70 percent six-year graduation rate and a 90 percent one-year retention rate for all students. “The work around retention is both academic and social,” said OSU president Steve Clark.

“Together we are working really hard to have an impact and change – to change the narrative about OSU, what OSU offers and the kind of community that we’re trying to build at OSU for our students. We’re spending a lot more time in our schools. We’re having students coming to our campus to kind of learn about the OSU experience and I’m really excited about where we’re heading.”

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