HU’s diversity initiative shows success with first graduates

Horizon graduates 2012HUNTINGTON, Ind. Four years ago, Huntington University created a program to promote a more racially and ethnically diverse campus. This spring, the university will graduate its first students from that program.

Launched in the fall of 2008, the Horizon Leadership Program is a partnership between Huntington University and Youth for Christ USA. 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.

On May 12, 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., will be the first Horizon graduates. Since their arrival on campus four years ago, more than 20 students have followed in their footsteps, including six students selected for the 2012-13 school year.

"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 validation to the university's investment and commitment towards the mission of diversity."

Along with providing financial aid assistance, the program also is 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.

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 the first year of the Horizon program 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.

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