A Cross-Cultural Ally: Saray E, Lopez Is a Driving Force Behind the University of Phoenix's Successful Minority Outreach Efforts

By Watson, Jamal Eric | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, September 21, 2017 | Go to article overview

A Cross-Cultural Ally: Saray E, Lopez Is a Driving Force Behind the University of Phoenix's Successful Minority Outreach Efforts


Watson, Jamal Eric, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


PHOENIX

When it comes to diversity, officials at the University of Phoenix are not particularly shy about touting their numbers.

Nor should they be. By all accounts, the numbers are pretty darn impressive. In spite of some of the age-old criticisms directed at the private, for-profit college that was founded in 1976, the University of Phoenix has consistently been able to accomplish what many brick and mortar campuses have set out to do without much success: attract minority groups.

That process, however, has not been an easy feat either. University officials say that it has been a concerted effort that has included, among other things, targeted state faculty recruitment plans and aggressively courting individuals who might study at the virtual university that now boasts more than 140,000 students. Now, the university is stepping up its efforts to focus even more attention on inclusion and climate issues, all the while expanding its outreach efforts across the nation.

Making diversity a priority

The university's Office of Multicultural Affairs & Diversity, headed by Dr. Angie Williams, has been leading the charge. Established in 2015, the office has been at the forefront of promoting cross-cultural understanding and forging collaborative relationships with existing national organizations, particularly those that work directly with Hispanics.

Saray E. Lopez, 34, the assistant dean of community outreach & inclusion and a rising star at the university, has been the public face of several of these new initiatives, helping to strengthen the institution's connection more specifically to the Hispanic community, which already has a strong and vibrant presence throughout the city of Phoenix.

"Saray has been a driving force in the university's efforts to create awareness about the rich, diverse nature of our student population and the staff and faculty who support and serve them," says John Ramirez, dean of operations in the School of Advanced Studies at the University of Phoenix. "She has built strong, robust, collaborative partnerships, locally and nationally, to promote the importance and relevance of the Hispanic community and the many contributions--socially, economically and politically--Hispanics have made and will continue to make on our great nation."

Lopez's boss, Dr. Angie Williams, agrees. "Saray is an integral part of University of Phoenix's mission to help make higher education goals a reality for working adults of all backgrounds, while elevating the discussion of diversity and inclusion with faculty, staff, students and the community," says Williams. "Her commitment to diversity is evident in her day-to-day activities and the passion she shares to make the world more inclusive."

Educational opportunities

For Lopez, the opportunity to do community engagement work and to help nontraditional learners--particularly those who are people of color--is a dream come true.

Lopez came to understand the importance of education from her parents. Although they were laborers with limited education, they encouraged her to pursue her studies.

"Growing up, the value of education was just engrained in me and my family," Lopez recalls, sitting in a conference room at the corporate office building that houses the University of Phoenix. …

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