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Texas university aids migrants.

Educators respond to changing demographics of nation's campuses

WASHINGTON - Solomon Torres is a successful Washington lawyer. He got there the hard way: He was the youngest of eight children in a migrant farm worker family.

While he was growing up, said Torres, his family moved every six months from their Rio Grande Valley home to Wisconsin, to work in a vegetable-canning factory.

At 18, Torres realized he wanted to achieve more than putting food on the table. Through a high school teacher, be heard of St. Edward University's College Assistance Migrant Program, CAMP, in Austin, Texas.

"I applied for and received a scholarship," he said. It was the start of a long academic journey: graduate studies at Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, summer studies at Harvard and, this past July, a law degree from Columbia University.

Torres works for a Washington law firm, but whether he gives direct legal assistance to farm workers or becomes involved in politics, he vows he will never forget his roots nor the CAMP opportunity: "St. Edward's looks beyond the classroom to make sure a graduate develops as an individual, not just a person with a BA degree."

Torres is just one of 2,000 students - adult children of migrant workers - who, over the past two decades, have received scholarships through CAMP. The federal government provides $2,300 annually for each student, and the university contributes $6,000.

CAMP enables this Catholic liberal arts institution, founded by the Holy Cross Congregation in 1885, to continue its "commitment to provide educational opportunities for students of varied cultural, religious, educational and economic background," said its academic dean, Notre Dame Sr. Donna Jurick.

It is a story familiar to many Catholic universities and colleges: Of the nearly 500,000 students on Catholic campuses, more than 22 percent are a mix of African-Americans, American Indians, Native Alaskans, Asia-Americans, Pacific Islanders and Hispanics.

That mix generated a new academic buzzword: multiculturalism. As the year 2000 approaches, changing demographics indicate that one out of three Americans will be nonwhite, and increasing numbers will pursue higher education.

Maybe multiculturalism "is the next plateau in America," said St. Edward University President Patricia Hayes. "Clearly there is a sense of seeing the globe as a melting pot. We must be a people who can work with folks from different countries, culturies and economic backgrounds."

Even so, on some U.S. campuses, the multiculturalism experimentation has translated into polarization. Some groups demand not only that, the curriculum include information about their group's culture and history but that it be taught in the native language by a faculty member of the same ethnic background.

"What is different about St. Ed's," said Hayes, "is that the wide diversity among the student community has always been a unifying rather than a polarizing theme."

A general education curriculum developed in 1989 includes 18 academic hours on cultural foundations. Its director, Marianne F. Hopper, said, "We talk about how everyone in the United States is an immigrant" - even American Indians.

Four basic courses evolve from what the students know best to what they know least. They do a "roots paper" and fit their families into one of the immigrant streams. That leads to discussion of the civic culture that binds a diversified people.

"It's like a balancing act," said Hopper. "Students talk about the ideas the early English, Irish and German settlers brought to America but also spend much time talking about the rich diversity of the new wave of immigrants."

Terry Newton teaches the American Experience course: "I think of it as windows of history. We set a scene, such as the Massachusetts Bay colony, and then discuss it from both the Anglo-American and Native American point of view." That process shows cultures blending, sometimes well sometimes not, as history progresses, be said.

Today, be said, students from "some ethnic groups can share experiences of how this conflict continues. Arguments about affirmative action and gender issues can become a little hot."

Subjects beyond history and literature emphasize cultural diversity. "The art areas - theater, photography, film, fine arts - are studied in a cultural context," said photo communications Professor Sybil Miller. "We choose a decade, a slice of time in the arts, such as 1930, and we study a lot of government-sponsored art and look at what was going on among artists in Latin America and Europe, as well as the U.S."

The 1993 student body at St Edward University is 62 percent white, 25 percent Hispanic, 4 percent African-American, 5 percent international, 2 percent Asian and 2 percent other. Students come from 52 nations, including the United States.

The sprinkling of black students on campus is a problem not easily solved by the administration's efforts to recruit African-Americans. English professor Cecil Lawson, attributes the low enrollment to high tuition costs, black students' being "turned off" by the college's Roman Catholic identity and competition from Huston-Tillotson, a nearby black university. "I'm the only full-time black professor," said Lawson. "Students want identity among themselves and with the faculty."

Hispanics have high visibility on campus. History Professor Jose Juarez said that although the mixture of cultures was better now, he felt "perfectly at home" when he was a student in the 1950s. He rejected separatism of ethnic groups.

Juarez praised St. Edward University for being the first U.S. college to establish the CAMP program: "Migrant students are given the support they need to adjust to separation from their families and the demands of working all day in the fields. They are tutored to make up gaps in education and shown how they can be incorporated into campus life."

The university's first students, in 1878, were three boys from nearby farms - people called it the "Catholic farm." But the Holy Cross priests on the faculty reached further and founded all the Hispanic parishes in the area.

Today, as multicultural experimentation challenges educators everywhere, St. Edward University simply continues to reach further than most.
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Title Annotation:St. Edwards University; Catholic Education
Author:Vidulich, Dorothy
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Oct 29, 1993
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