By ABE MILLS
With the rapid growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide, BYU is making an effort to have a campus population that reflects the diversity of the church. The Office of High School and College Relations and the Student Life Multicultural Office are working together to see that students everywhere are aware of what BYU has to offer.
Lisa Muranaka, multicultural coordinator for the Office of High School and College Relations, is in charge of identifying areas where the most LDS multicultural students can be reached. Potential students from those areas ranging from seventh grade to junior year in high school are invited to informational firesides about BYU.
“With the church’s growth, there are a lot of converts who don’t know what options are available to them through the church education system,” Muranaka said.
Some of the areas which have been identified are New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and New Orleans. This year plans have also been made to hold firesides in California and here in Utah.
The firesides aim to inform all potential students, not just multicultural or foreign ones, about what classes need to be taken and what criteria need to be met in order for them to be considered BYU material.
The three areas that are considered when applicants are evaluated are spiritual, academic and social, and admissions officers say having students with high qualifications in these three areas is far more important than meeting certain diversity percentages.
Muranaka said she gives heavy emphasis to social involvement, which shows an ability to be comfortable outside the classroom. She also said curriculum matters, including seminary and college placement classes taken in high school. Muranaka said it is important for people to understand that BYU doesn’t just want to fill spots with minority students.
“We don’t have a quota,” she said. “When we admit a multicultural student it does not take away a Caucasian student’s spot.”
BYU’s minority population has increased steadily over the last ten years, and Muranaka said she keys in on recruiting the students who will thrive in a BYU atmosphere.
“BYU is a very unique institution, and if we bring students here that are not prepared it’s a disservice to (them),” Muranaka said.
Jim Slaughter, Multicultural Office program advisor, said BYU wants multicultural students who can succeed in the BYU environment.
“Regardless of race, it’s not going to do BYU any good to bring students who can’t compete academically,” he said.
Jaime Astwood, 22, a student from Boston majoring in accounting and business, said he wasn’t going attend BYU at first because he felt he would be uncomfortable here because of his race. He even sent a letter to BYU saying he would not be attending.
Astwood, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, said the administration offices sent him a video telling him a little about the campus. Through that video, the advice of friends and prayer, Astwood said he changed his mind and decided to come to Provo.
“Now I see more people who are of different cultures than I did before,” Astwood said. “It helps when people get to interact with different cultures.”
Astwood said he liked the Devotional in February in which Elder Dallin H. Oaks said that people should learn about other cultures in order to unify and not separate.
“I think in this day and age education is incomplete without involvement with people from other cultures,” said Vern Heperi, director of Multicultural Student Services. “Some people haven’t had interactions with people of color, and there’s another education that takes place in that interaction.”
Muranaka agreed multicultural interaction is crucial to students at BYU.
“When they finish here, (students) are going to places all around to work with people of many different cultures. What better place to learn those skills than in their educational experience at BYU?” she said.