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N.H. Catholic College Wants Twice the Diversity


St. Anselm College, a Roman Catholic college here, wants to double the enrollment of Hispanics, African-Americans and other minorities.

The college says it wants to do it by creating an environment that welcomes students of varied Christian denominations, religions and sexual orientations. Ethnic and racial minorities constitute 4.3 percent of the 1,900-member student body.

“We need to be a place where everyone feels at home, not just some people,” the Rev. Jonathan DeFelice, president of the college, told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “What are the things we do that are unattractive and therefore keeping some people away? We’re asking that question ourselves. Are we doing enough so that people feel comfortable and at home here?”

Denise Askin, the school’s new assistant to the president for inclusiveness, said the college will look at course offerings, student organizations, admissions practices and faculty hiring.

“If we grow in inclusiveness, if we have an environment on this campus that makes this a first choice for minority  students, then we will have a higher percentage,” Askin said.

The college said it would reach out to urban high schools in New Hampshire cities such as Manchester and Nashua. St. Anselm also has sought a statewide grant to hold workshops on how to fill out applications and financial aid forms.

The college recently created faculty positions for experts in African history, African-American and post-colonial literature, Chinese language and Asian religions. This semester, it is offering about a dozen courses on those topics and others, such as liberation theology and women and crime, according to its Web site.

College administrators and professors say the program is rooted in Catholic and Benedictine teachings on treating others with the same respect and dignity that they would Jesus Christ.

Philosophy professor Kevin Staley said a more diverse student body engenders “cross-cultural understanding.”

The college recently was granted $350,000 from the Clare Boothe Luce Program of the Henry Luce Foundation to support women in the sciences. The funds will provide full two-year scholarships – including tuition, room, board, and fees – for four women in the class of 2012 who are majoring in chemistry, physics, math or engineering.

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