Ohio State’s official enrollment report for Autumn 2011 stated that the first-year retention rates and graduation rates for both African American and Hispanic students at OSU’s Columbus campus have exceeded national levels.
When compared to last year’s 88.3 percent, the first-year retention rates for African American students this year was 91.1 percent. The first-year retention rates for Hispanic students this year was reported to be 93.1 percent compared to last year’s 92.1 percent.
Jefferson Blackburn-Smith Sr., associate director of undergraduate admissions and First Year Experience at OSU, said in an email the responsibility of improving the retention rates at OSU does not rely solely on the efforts of one department.
The Multicultural Center, Hale Black Center and the Todd A. Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male are all part of the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Each of the centers organizes events and workshops geared toward helping smooth the transition process for the incoming freshman class.
Todd Suddeth, program director at the Bell National Resource Center, said one of the hallmark programs at the center is the Early Arrival Program, designed to provide African American males with the opportunity to explore the various university-provided resources.
“It provides us with opportunity for early engagement, so an opportunity to meet students as they’re coming in,” Suddeth said. “A chance to get to know them better, get a chance to introduce them to resources, services that our office provides as well as other offices on campus provide.”
The Multicultural Center hosts a set of social events, workshops and classes throughout the year. Some of these events include Hispanic Heritage month in October, United Black World month in February and the African American Heritage festival in April.
The Multicultural Center also has intercultural specialists that work with specific constituency groups.
Davida Haywood, director of the Multicultural Center, said the intercultural specialists act as representatives for their groups.
“These individuals serve as front-in-line advocates for their groups,” she said. “(They are involved with) anything around programming, a lot of one-on-one counseling and mentoring, advising to various student groups and a lot of community outreach.”
Indra Leyva-Santiago, the Hispanic intercultural specialist at The Multicultural Center, said the reason for the increase in first-year retention rates for Hispanic students is the fact that the Latino community at OSU has become stronger in the past three years.
“The Latino community has become really strong. The collaborations with faculty, staff and students has increased in the last three years,” she said.
Yolanda Zepeda, assistant provost at the ODI, said the number of Hispanic students that received a bachelor’s degree at OSU has been increasing steadily. In 2010, OSU graduated 256 Hispanic students, while in 2009, the university saw 221 Hispanic students graduate.
Despite the steady increase in retention rates for Hispanic students, Miguel Guevara, a fourth-year in philosophy and political science and president of Lambda Theta Phi Fraternity, said he is not very impressed with the data.
“For Ohio State to boast about how they exceed national averages, I would like to see what their numbers are compared to schools like University of Texas,” Guevara said. “(At Texas, the students) are 22 percent Hispanic. (Does OSU) even touch the retention rates there?”
Guevara described his first quarter at OSU as “awful” because of the lack of Latino presence on campus.
“I wanted to leave, I wanted to transfer,” Guevara said. “I just could not stand Ohio State my first autumn quarter. The culture change, the lack of Latino presence on campus, (I was) expecting to see a lot more Latino faculty and staff.”
Zepeda said it’s not surprising to see small numbers of Latino students at OSU because of the state’s demographic location.
“Latinos represent just over 3 percent of the state’s population. Since the majority of our undergraduates are state residents, it is not surprising that we would see small numbers in comparison to other groups,” Zepeda said.