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Corporate Recruiters Criticize UW-Madison’s Lack of Diversity

Corporate Recruiters Criticize UW-Madison’s Lack of Diversity

The lack of diversity in the University of Wisconsin-Madison student body makes the school an increasingly disappointing campus at which to seek talent, a growing number of corporate recruiters are saying.

Companies frequently target students with diverse backgrounds, but UW-Madison is one of the least diverse schools in the Big Ten Conference.

In 2005, only 10 percent of UW-Madison students identified themselves as Black, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian. By comparison, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, claims 32 percent.

UW-Madison has a larger enrollment of Asians in its College of Engineering, but less than 5 percent of the other students there are minorities.

In recent years, Alcoa, General Motors Corp. and a division of Procter & Gamble Co. have said the lack of diversity in the school’s College of Engineering is the reason they stopped recruiting there. Procter & Gamble has since resumed but other corporations are threatening to look elsewhere unless the university increases its minority enrollment.

One reason the university has few minorities is because the state has few minorities. State law mandates that 75 percent of UW-Madison undergraduates must be state residents. But Blacks and Hispanics make up just 10 percent of the population.

The city of Milwaukee has a high minority population, but its public school system, with its high dropout rates and low student performance, doesn’t feed large numbers of graduates to Wisconsin’s flagship university.

It doesn’t help that the school has a reputation for being inhospitable to minorities, says Dr. Doug Henderson, a professor in the College of Engineering.

UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley says the companies’ concerns led to campus initiatives to attract minorities.

Henderson was named the associate dean of diversity in the College of Engineering in 2001. In that capacity, he hired administrators to recruit and retain undergraduate minorities.

Those efforts appear to have paid off, as have programs designed to prepare high school minorities throughout the state, he says. Minority enrollment has begun creeping up in the College of Engineering and the university as a whole.

Last spring a division of Procter & Gamble returned to recruit at the College of Engineering. An Alcoa official says that firm may follow suit, although other companies appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach.

— Associated Press

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