It’s impossible to know exactly what John Tarleton had in mind for the university bearing his name. His dream was to create an institution of higher education for students of modest means.

Today, that dream is reality. Tarleton State University offers an affordable, high-quality education and boasts graduates whose accomplishments would leave its founder filled with pride.

This monthly column, by an anonymous university author, looks at the school’s progress, issues of our time, achievements and challenges through the eyes of John Tarleton—a dreamer’s point of view.

A Changing Face

Nothing stays the same. Especially the changing composition of Tarleton State University students. That’s good news.

The university’s ever-growing diverse enrollment gives students a panoramic snapshot of the world and a more complete view of their place in it. Something that was only a dream all those years ago.

A diverse campus fosters creativity, innovation and problem-solving. It enhances self-awareness and prepares students for work in a global society.

Of the more than 13,000 students enrolled at all Tarleton locations for fall 2016, close to 9,500 are taking classes in Stephenville. Almost 30 percent represent diverse people groups. Some 17 percent are Hispanic, 7 percent are African-American/black, 3 percent represent two or more races and the other 3 percent include Asians, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. That’s impressive when you consider that the university started with only 100 students.

Interesting too is the number of female vs. male students. In my day, men dominated university campuses. Not so in 2016. More than 60 percent of students enrolled at Tarleton in Stephenville are women.

The composition of students at Tarleton’s other locations is changing, too.

Enrollment at Tarleton-Fort Worth is up 7 percent with 1,843 students—21 percent of those Hispanic and 13 percent black—and 12th day of class reports for Tarleton-Waco show a 5-percent increase with 1,036 students taking classes on the campus of McLennan Community College. Tarleton-Waco numbers also show an increase in minority enrollment with Hispanic students making up 23 percent of the student population and black students 13 percent.

Overall enrollment numbers for Tarleton-Midlothian, 279, and the university’s Global Campus, 589, are about the same as those a year ago.

Research proves that students educated in a racially and ethnically diverse environment perform better academically and experience greater professional success than those from more uniform learning environments.

The advantages of a multicultural education don’t stop there, however.

The whole idea of equality and democracy is truly dependent on the next generation of leaders who are prepared to engage with individuals and groups that make up the Melting Pot we call America. Those who understand and appreciate our differences will make the world a better place.

Of course, Tarleton leaders know that a diverse student population is not an end in itself. Diversity does not automatically create a more welcoming and intellectually stimulating campus. Long-term efforts and engagement are essential to realizing the benefits that diversity offers and ensuring that all Tarleton Texans are heard, respected and valued.

Such understanding is the reason for Tarleton’s strong commitment to educate and empower every member of the university community regardless of race or ethnicity.

And the explanation for its changing “face.”