Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Catalyst for Change

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Catalyst for Change

Article excerpt

After leading the National Council of La Raza for more than 30 years, Raul Yzaguirre takes his fight for civil rights to Arizona State University.

TEMPE, ARIZ.

Raul Yzaguirre takes note, with pleasure, of the growing number of minorities making up Arizona State University's student enrollment - 31 percent in the fall of 2004.

"The Latino student percentage at Arizona State University is not, of course, equal to the Latino percentage in the local community," he says. "But we are making significant progress in that area, and have seen increases in the numbers last year and the year before that."

In fact, Hispanics at ASU now make up more than 12 percent of the student body, at 7,325 out of a total student enrollment of 61,033. And they saw their numbers increase by about 7.5 percent this academic year over the year before. By comparison, Hispanics compose roughly 60 percent of the general population in the greater Tempe-Phoenix area, a percentage that is expected to grow in the years ahead.

After serving on the national stage as the president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, it makes sense that Yzaguirre is interested in the racial and ethnic dynamics of ASU. Last January, after working with NCLR since the mid-1970s and seeing it emerge as the most influential Hispanic policy institute in the country, Yzaguirre announced that he was joining the ASU faculty (see Black Issues In Higher Education, Jan. 27,2005).

His charge? To develop a Hispanic-based community development institute and assist the school's efforts to raise money, recruit minority faculty and students and establish partnerships with minority groups. It was a move that was widely seen as a major coup for the ASU community, which has thoroughly embraced him in the past year.

"He has proven himself to be a major force here," says ASU President Michael M. Crow, "showing us that he is not just a movingforward kind of guy, but also someone who instinctively understands the core issues related to community development and civil rights and knows how to get things done."

Says Alonzo Jones, the past president of the ASU African American Alumni chapter and current director of the school's multicultural student services, "What has been most interesting to me is how the students here have received him. Almost from the moment he got here he made a point of reaching out to other communities on the ASU campus and really interfacing with them."

"The idea behind establishing a dialogue with the students was simple," says Yzaguirre. "I want to advocate for their concerns, but you cannot really know or understand what those concerns are unless you are willing to meet with them and truly listen. …

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