A little over two years ago, the head of the Association of American Medical Colleges said he believed the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) to be the most diverse medical school in the country. Now, UH campuses have taken the top spots in the Chronicle of Higher Education 2014 list of the most diverse campuses in the United States. UH Hilo was named the most diverse four-year public institution in the country.
“Being a diverse campus means that our students are able to study with people who have different experiences and different ways of thinking than they do and they learn more,” said UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney. “That’s what being the most diverse campus is going to mean for the students is they are going to have a much better educational experience than if we were the other end of the spectrum.”
UH Maui College, UH West Oʻahu and UH Mānoa ranked two, three and four respectively.
Dean Jerris Hedges of the medical school said, “Our admissions committee works diligently to find the best applicants, with great preference given to local students who we believe are most likely to make their careers as physicians here where they are needed.” (For example, of 2,225 applicants in 2014, the 66 freshman medical students include 56 kama`aina.)
“Hawai`i itself is so diverse, that makes it natural that we have such diversity in our classes. And the medical school has active, successful programs at the public high school and university levels to recruit students from under-served communities into health professions,” said Dean Hedges.
“Not surprising, especially when like you go to school here and you walk around, you see new faces, people from different races, everyone,” commented UH Mānoa student Jonathan Neyland. “Everyone is different, everyone has different experiences. We can all learn from each other and it’s really great.”
Windward Community College was rated as the single most diverse campus in the nation and led the two-year public institution rankings with Hawaiʻi Community College, Kauaʻi Community College and Leeward Community College rounding out the top four. Honolulu Community College was 6th and Kapiʻolani Community College was ranked 7th.
“The exceptional rankings of our whole UH System is just amazing,” said UH President David Lassner. “It’s obviously a reflection of our diverse island communities throughout the state but it is also, really, a testament to our students, our faculty and our staff who create a really positive and welcoming environment for people of all backgrounds, races and ethnicities.”
The Chronicle’s diversity index uses national data to calculate the probability that any two students at an institution are from different racial or ethnic groups.
Students say the diversity at UH truly enhances their educational experience.
“I did my undergrad in the mainland and for them I think it is a little different because they don’t get to see as much cultural diversity as we do here,” said Kasie Tanabe, a UH Mānoa graduate student. “I think it is good for UH students to see different cultures and different people, and everything like that. It makes us a lot more tolerant and understanding of other cultures.”
“It’s part of a strategy to bring in more students, international students, full tuition paying students,” Lassner continued. “It reflects the welcoming spirit of our campuses and it is one of the reasons we think international students will really treasure the opportunity to attend a University of Hawaiʻi campus.”
UH System External Affairs contributed to this report.