Webster is one of few St. Louis area colleges whose percentage of white students is less than half of students enrolled.
Diverse Issues in Higher Education ranked Webster first among all non-profit private and public institutions in the U.S. for the number of degrees awarded to African American graduate students.
Webster’s Chief Diversity Officer Vincent C. Flewellen said it has taken a lot more than just a mission statement to set Webster’s diversity rate apart from many other universities of similar size.
“It’s not just something that’s living as a statement on our website,” Flewellen said. “We are actually doing that work and many institutions will talk it but won’t necessarily walk it.”
Webster University enrollment numbers show Webster is more diverse than other institutions of similar size in the area. Compared to Lindenwood University St. Charles and Maryville University of St. Louis, Webster is the only university where the population of white students is less than half, with 45 percent of all students as white, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).
Sixty nine percent of students enrolled at Maryville University for fall 2017 were white, according to the IPEDS. As of fall 2017, according to IPEDS, 52 percent of students at Lindenwood University St. Charles students are white.
Larry Morris graduated from Webster in 2008. He works as the coordinator for the Multicultural Center of International Student Affairs. He said he has noticed a difference in diversity at Webster since he graduated.
“There’s definitely more diversity than when I was here,” Morris said. “I would say there’s more diversity in the sense of students from all over the world and students on the domestic side too.”
President Stroble said race is only one of the factors that goes into the diversity Webster has.
“When you’re talking about diversity, this is across the spectrum of what makes people different,” Stroble said. “It’s not only gender or race. It’s place of birth, disability, expression of gender, religious affiliation, economics. We have a diversity of academic programs [as well], so different students who are attracted by different majors.”
Stroble also explained that giving students accessibility and assistance through tutoring, academic programs and extra financial aid helps make Webster welcoming or everyone.
“Students in all their diversity come with different levels of preparation, different levels of readiness, different levels of being able to give this their full time and attention,” Stroble said. “College is hard. Figuring out how to make that hardness work better through support systems and tutoring and transition summer bridge programs, more scholarship support, more work study.”
Flewellen doesn’t believe that having a diverse student population is the hard part, but rather making everyone feel included is.
“People want to know that we matter, that we’re seen, that we’re heard and that we’re validated in our existence,” Flewellen said.