This year’s freshman class—the second-largest in Duke history—includes a record number of Latino students thanks in part to an improved recruitment weekend.
Approximately 11 percent of the 1750 students in the class of 2019 are Latino or Latina, surpassing the 10 percent mark set by the class of 2018. The classes of 2016 and 2017, on the other hand, were only seven percent Latino. The increase in Latino students over the past two years will help Duke recruit Latino students in the future, explained Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag.
“In general I think the increased Latino presence on campus makes Duke a more attractive option for students who might not have considered us before,” he wrote in an email.
The record numbers resulted from more Latino students accepting their offers from Duke—not from more Latino students being admitted. In fact, fewer Latino students were admitted this year than usual, Guttentag wrote.
Senior Gloria Tomlinson, co-president of Mi Gente, Duke’s Latino/a Student Association, explained that the presence of more Latino students on campus during Latino Student Recruitment Weekend was one of the reasons for the increased yield. She added that last year’s LSRW planning committee made several changes to the weekend’s programming—adding an airport shuttle and making changes to its annual dance showcase—that improved the experience for prospective students.
“In particular, the dance showcase, Mezcla, was the most successful showcase in the past four years,” Tomlinson explained.
In addition to having a larger number of performing groups, Mezcla was held outside on a quadrangle for the first time in several years, which increased the sense of community many students felt, she said.
“A lot of the Duke community was there too, and I think [LSRW attendees] seeing that we have such a diverse community at Duke really called their attention because it looked like everyone was invested in the show,” said senior Lorena Garcia, last year’s LSRW committee chair. “In past years, the show has been held indoors or rain canceled it, and it just isn’t what it’s supposed to be.”
Other changes to last year’s LSRW included a faculty-student luncheon with more participating professors than in previous years and a panel held at the Duke Coffeehouse.
“Students felt more comfortable asking questions there than in a large lecture hall where things can be a little overwhelming,” Garcia said.
Attendance at LSRW has remained consistent over the past few years, and last year’s attendance was no different. The weekend averages around 60 to 80 attendees, and over half of the students who attend LRSW enroll at Duke the following fall, said Ashley Taylor, senior admissions officer, Latino recruiter and LSRW coordinator.
Taylor noted that in light of the recent changes, the LSRW team is still looking for ways to improve.
“The team gives me great feedback and new ideas to improve LSRW, and because of their dedication and hard work, I trust them with quite a bit of planning and budgeting responsibility,” she said in an email. “I’m always blown away by their efforts, enthusiasm and pride to showcase Duke from the student perspective.”
Tomlinson said the increases in the Latino and Latina student population at Duke is a cause for celebration and should inspire continued growth in the community. The high yield among Latino students in the Class of 2019 comes after Mi Gente opened its first ever office space in the Bryan Center last April.
Although many felt at that time that the progress made by Latino students on campus was exciting, some also noted that there is still more work to be done.
Former Mi Gente co-president Karina Santellano, Trinity ‘15, explained in an email that even getting the Mi Gente office space in the Bryan Center was a challenge when dealing with administration.
“They would not budge and despite saying they supported us, said that space anywhere at Duke was limited because of construction and they couldn’t treat student groups differently by giving us space,” she wrote. “I felt that we nearly had to yank a tooth out of administration to get them to start making moves!”
Santellano explained that the space in the Bryan Center is a starting point for the Latino community to eventually move into a cultural space where events can be held, similar to the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.
She also highlighted the fact that Mi Gente is often given the job of recruiting Latino students during LSRW on top of programming for the current student body and the regular workload that all Duke students face on a daily basis.
“To be Latino/a at Duke University can be exhausting,” she wrote. “How do you become part of a greater community when you see that the community itself is not seeing the value of creating space for you?”
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