A new Horizon for HU

Four years ago, Huntington University had its own dream: To cultivate a campus environment reflective of the kingdom of heaven where every nation and tribe, every tongue and people are fully embraced and represented.

On May 12, the university saw the fruits of its labor as the first of the Horizon students graduated.

Logan Placencia of Auburn, Ind., Evianna Monroe of the Bronx, N.Y., Christopher Burton of Rock Island, Ill., and Shar'Niese Miller of Fort Wayne, Ind., came to HU four years ago to help start an innovative program to create diversity on campus. Since their arrival, more than 20 Horizon scholars have followed in their footsteps.

"When I consider the paths that the members of this graduating class have traveled in order to arrive at this moment, I can't help but to be amazed, inspired and encouraged," said the Rev. Arthur Wilson, who led the Horizon program over the past four years. "In so many ways, their achievements provide a sense of validation to the university's investment and commitment towards the mission of diversity."

Launched in fall 2008, the Horizon Leadership Program is a partnership between Huntington University and Youth for Christ USA with the goal of creating a more racially and ethnically diverse campus. A cohort of students from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds is selected each year to receive the Horizon Leadership Scholarship. A combination of federal, state and institutional aid, the scholarship covers all fees associated with tuition and housing costs for up to 10 semesters.

The program is also designed to integrate participating students into an existing fabric of university life and Youth for Christ ministry through community service, academic success, professional/leadership development, spiritual growth and social involvement.

"Considering that I wouldn't be here without the Horizon program, I tell students that part of the reason the Horizon program came to be was so that students who are ethnically and racially diverse would be provided with the opportunity to attend an institution like HU when they otherwise probably would not have been able to do so," said Horizon recipient and 2012 graduate Logan Placencia. "I tell students that the Horizon program provides great support for its students and that, through this program, HU is achieving a more diverse and culturally rich campus."

Beyond helping the Horizon students to grow in character and leadership, the program has also had an "immensely positive" impact on the campus culture, according to Dr. Ron Coffey, vice president for student life.

"This program has introduced the typical student body to people who might not look like them or talk like them, but through living and studying with each other, students started to see that they had more in common than not," said Horizon recipient and 2012 graduate Christopher Burton. "The Horizon program has helped HU begin to reflect the real world. You now see light faces, dark faces, faces of color all around campus. And that's a true reflection of how the world is."

Over the past four years, the Horizon program has welcomed more ethnically diverse students to HU and has helped the university move closer to its goal: To create a more diverse campus, even outside of the program.

"The ultimate measure of success will be the graduation rate of the Horizon scholars, but by almost any metric, the program has been a success. Just consider that in 2008 we enrolled more new minority students than we had enrolled in our entire student body the previous year of 2007," said Jeff Berggren, senior vice president for enrollment management and marketing.

And as the 2012 class steps out on its own, the next generation of Horizon students are already planning their four years at HU.

"I truly believe this program has been a benefit for HU. It not only helped and changed the mindset of its recipients, but it also helped and changed some of the mindsets and the 'routines' that HU had," said Horizon recipient and 2012 graduate Shar'Niese Miller. "I think not only did it bring HU into a better light and to a new era, but it had an impact on many people at HU."