CALDWELL — It may be a small compared to other universities in the state, but The College of Idaho is big on diversity with students from 43 different countries coming to Caldwell to get their degrees.
“It’s been an intentional effort, developing connections with other schools and programs to bring in a mix of international students,” Paul Bennion, vice president for students affairs at C of I, said. “To be a school of 1,000 students in Caldwell, Idaho, and have the richness of cultures represented that we have, it makes me proud to be at this college, to be part of an institution that is really valuing having different cultures and perspectives.”
The ‘Princeton Review’ validated this when it named The C of I one of America’s best colleges this month and ranked the private liberal arts school 10th in the nation in the category of Race/Class Interaction.
Bennion said it is important for C of I to expose their students to different perspectives and cultures to enrich their educational experience.
President Marv Henberg echoed that sentiment.
“I think the campus community becomes an important classroom,” he said. “Students learn as much from each other as they learn in the classroom.”
Along with international students, C of I also has a large Hispanic student population, which adds to the school’s racial diversity. Hispanic students make up 7 percent of the student body.
“Our retention rate with Hispanic students, who are often first generation, is phenomenal,” Bennion said. “We’re very happy with how we support and work with international and Hispanic and other students of different racial backgrounds.”
Arnold Hernandez, director of multicultural affairs at C of I, said he thinks international and minority students are attracted to the college in part due to its size and the 10-1 student to professor ratio.
“We have a small college that cares about students,” he said. “They get a lot of one on one type of opportunities with our instructors.”
Hernandez said it is important for many Latino students that they study close to home and C of I offers them this opportunity. The college also works with first generation students to keep their families involved as well.
Where do C of I students come from?
Idaho: 72 percent
Pacific Northwest (excluding Idaho): 15.5 percent
Other U.S. States: 4.5 percent, 45 students
International: 8 percent, 80 students
Minority C of I alumni look back at experiences
Brothers Adan and Dominic De La Taz both graduated from The College of Idaho and enjoy the benefits the education involving a diverse student population has given them.
Adan graduated in 2003 with a Spanish major and education minor, and in 2004 with a masters in education. After graduation he worked with some local school districts but has since moved with his wife — also a C of I graduate — to China where they have taught for the past three years at a local school.
“I think that the world that we’re living in requires us to be globalized citizens,” he said.
Adan said students can lose out on opportunities later on in life if they don’t know about other cultures and allow for different points of view.
“The school has definitely put a priority on diversity and making sure that people get opportunities to do things like study abroad,” he said. “This has definitely been a full circle of learning and then now sharing that with a new group of students.”
His younger brother graduated in 2006 with a business major and educational studies minor. Dominic now teaches business education at Skyview High School in Nampa while concurrently working on his masters degree.
While at C of I, he helped other minority and international students get used to the area since he is a local.
“It was a very beneficial experience for me,” he said. “They learn about your culture and you learn about their culture.”
Dominic said the college acknowledges both students’ strengths and weaknesses to help them be successful.
“There’s many colleges out there that probably offer the same thing,” he said, “but if you want a family-type atmosphere where Arnold (Hernandez) and the minority department will literally bring you into their house … and introduce you to the Idaho culture, this is the place to come.”
How C of I accommodates diverse students
The College of Idaho offers tailored orientations to both first-generation Latino students and international students to help ease the transition into their new environment.
Along with cultural education, students also have the opportunity to meet with the C of I food service provider, who solicits feedback from the students.
“They’re a unique population, with a unique set of needs,” Paul Bennion, vice president for students affairs, said.
Specific academic advisers are also allocated for these students and campus organizations, such as the Association of Latino Americano Students and the International Student Organization, help them to get involved with the community.
“ALAS and ISO are probably two of the most active organizations on campus,” Hernandez said.
How C of I attracts international students
The C of I is a member of the Davis United World College Scholars Program, which includes schools all around the world.
Faculty use this connection to bring in international students from a huge variety of countries. Because the program provides scholarships for students to study overseas, many less affluent people can afford to come to C of I. Bennion said this adds to the economic diversity of the international students who attend C of I.
“It is often the case that they are completely reliant on the scholarships to be here,” he said.
C of I also has a local connection with the Riverstone International School in Boise. Bennion said about one third of the students who come to C of I from Riverstone are international.
International students in Caldwell
“The students become part of the local community,” Bennion said. “To have these international students is a benefit to not just the campus community but also Caldwell and the Treasure Valley.”
Last November around 30 international students participated in a show of songs, dance and comedy, attended by both the campus and local communities. President Marv Henberg said the students raised almost $1,000, which they donated to Lincoln Middle School in Caldwell — a school with a significant Hispanic population — for field trips after the budget for trips had been cut.
“I thought, what a model for all our students,” Henberg said. “They’ve really got the message; yes they are visitors here getting an education, but they also are human beings linked to the community. They are thinking globally but acting locally.”