Supporting Academic Success for Minority Students: APU Named Top 100 Degree Producer

by Ashley Eneriz

Azusa Pacific University wants every student to experience academic success and fulfill their unique calling. In light of this goal and in recognition of the success of its students, APU was recently named a Top 100 Degree Producer by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education. This distinction is given to institutions that bestow the most degrees to minority students.

“This recognition speaks to the agency and the academic determination of APU’s diverse student body,” said Keith Hall, EdD APU’s vice president and chief diversity officer. “Many of our students begin the academic journey with incredible ambition and an elevated sense of commitment to serve and make a difference in the world.”

APU Ranks High in Science Degrees among Minorities

Cristian Aguilar, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology and Chemistry at APU, noted that minority groups in STEM fields are underrepresented, so the university is pleased to increase representation of STEM graduates. “Diverse perspectives from students contribute enormously to cutting-edge research and developments,” he explained. “It is imperative that the sciences be positioned to benefit from all voices as we work to address the challenging problems our society faces.”

It’s because of the drive and passion of talented students and faculty that APU ranked number 13 for nursing and number 96 for psychology among all undergraduate minority degree earners. APU minority graduate and doctoral students also made the list with rankings in nursing, rehabilitation and therapeutic professions, and biological and biomedical sciences.

Serving Minorities in Every Degree Program

Along with the university's nursing program, APU ranked in the top 30 for graduate degrees in social sciences, business, and education among Asian Americans, and in the top 40 for English and business graduate degrees among African Americans.

The APU community is comprised of students who desire to excel and a supportive team of faculty and staff devoted to mentoring students for academic success from day one to graduation and beyond.

“In my five years directing APU’s Undergraduate Research Program, I have seen how critical faculty mentors can be in preparing students for a fulfilling future,” said Verónica Gutiérrez, MFA, PhD, who is also an associate professor of Latin American history and the director of the Bridge and Launch programs at APU. “Undergraduate faculty mentors introduce students to discipline-specific research methods, build confidence in their ability to produce scholarly work, assist them in submitting abstracts to conferences, and accompany them to present their research.”

The Future of APU’s Excellence

The Top 100 Degree Producer distinction points to APU's ongoing commitment to equity and inclusion. “While we still have much work to do to help our students of minority status flourish at all levels and in all programs, these rankings indicate that we are on the right track,” said APU Provost Rukshan Fernando, PhD.

Hall said that APU has taken a strategic direction to be a Christ-centered community that’s committed to its designation as a Minority-Serving Institution (MSI), a recognition given by the Department of Education. The university continues to expand offerings to support student thriving, such as the new Summer Bridge program, a four-week program for incoming first-generation college students, made possible through a National Endowment for the Humanities-Hispanic Serving Institution (NEH-HSI) grant.

“This program offers students 5 units of academic credit, enrichment activities via field trips and guest speakers, and an opportunity to bond as a cohort,” said Gutiérrez. “Our goal is to provide our Bridge students with early exposure to the APU community, connect them with available resources, and introduce them to key faculty and administrators in order to ensure a smooth transition to university life.”

“It is important to acknowledge the investment of countless faculty, staff, and student leaders who are leveraging their influence, capacity, and expertise to support the holistic success of our diverse students. This also provides inspiration and informs our strategic efforts that support our designation as a Minority Serving Institution,” said Hall. “APU aspires to become a Thriving University of Choice where students from a variety of backgrounds come for a substantive, transformative, and holistic experience.”

He added that he wants the university to be a place where minorities are seen, known, and served well so that they can then graduate and make a difference for God, the nation, and the world.

Learn more about how Azusa Pacific is striving to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion across the university.