When Luigy Estevanell stepped onto campus at Florida International University (FIU), he immediately felt at home. The Class of 2020 business student says that’s partly due to the diverse and inclusive environment that FIU offers. For Estevanell, whose family hails from the Dominican Republic and Cuba, opportunities didn’t always come easy.
“The opportunities I’ve had are ones that don’t come from privilege and have pushed me beyond what I thought were possible,” Estevanell says.
In our minority report survey of 83 U.S. colleges, FIU ranked the highest with 86% of its incoming Fall 2019 class of business majors represented by U.S. minorities. It’s a telling number, especially given that some colleges barely break the single-digit percentage rate in minority representation. Other schools towards the top of the list were the University of Texas-Arlington, which had 63% of its incoming Fall 2019 business majors identifying as an under-represented U.S. minority, Northern Illinois University (46.3%), and Rutgers Business School in Newark (44%). Of the 83 schools, 20 enrolled an incoming class of business majors with at least a quarter identifying with a U.S. minority.
Joanne Li, dean at Florida International University’s College of Business, says the university has a responsibility to provide access to higher education — especially for the underrepresented in America.
“Minorities are underrepresented in many areas of U.S. corporate and civic life,” Li says. “Higher education is a critical pathway to achievement in virtually every facet. Therefore, when we provide better access to higher educational opportunities for minorities, we not only ensure greater equality in our institutions, but we also help organizations gain access to a diverse talent pool that will allow them to develop a more diverse perspective.”
EDUCATION WITH EVERYONE IN MIND
Li says FIU is mindful about its business students and the backgrounds they come from.
“Many of our students are first in their family to go to college and hold down jobs to help their parents pay bills,” she says. “We are mindful and intentional to offer many classes at night and online to give students more flexibility to accommodate their schedules and outside obligations.”
The university was also an early adopter of online education, launching its pilot program with 10 online courses back in 1999.
But on top of time commitment, FIU also realized that, for many, a college education can be expensive. The school grants scholarship programs exclusively given to first-generation business students and also offers a Minority Community College Transfer Scholarship, which is designed for minority students who are transferring from a community college.
“Much of our fundraising efforts focus on ensuring the success of our students and that certainly includes first-generation and minority students,” Li says. “We will continue to seek the funding we need to develop creative student success initiatives.”
REPRESENTATION IS KEY
At FIU, representation is an integral part of how the college operates. In addition to the clubs and organizations at the university-wide level, the College of Business also has organizations that specifically aim to support minority business students. One example is the National Association of Black Accountants, which brings in speakers from the Big Four firms and holds leadership and career prep and other events to support students of color.
While having these minority-focused organizations can demonstrate a certain level of awareness for universities, a more telling sign of a school’s efforts on diversity and inclusion is how well-represented minority students are outside of the minority clubs and organizations. Estevanell serves as the president of the college’s business honor society, Beta Alpha Psi, where the executive board alone features students from seven different countries.
“This diversity allows our university new and unique views and continues to bring our university success and the ability to reach new heights,” Estevanell says.
It can be easy to brush away “diversity” and “inclusion” as buzz words, but at FIU, those words are real. And they’ve helped teach Estevanell an important life lesson.
“Seeing other minorities on campus especially when they are from a different background allows you to see that success does not come from looking a certain way or being from a certain place,” he says. “Success comes from the individual with hard work and dedication.”
(See the entire list of 83 schools with percentages on the next page.)