Students want more equity, still appreciate diversity


For Pamela Saulsberry, the director of diversity, inclusion and equity, making ULM diverse is not something that can be debated. It should be and is a major part of making everyone feel welcome.  

“Diversity is the rule, not the exception. It goes hand in hand with equity and inclusion,” Saulsberry said. “It is not easy to get to a point of perfection, it is a journey […] to promote an environment where everyone’s gifts and experiences are valued and appreciated.”

The road to diversity was not always an easy one for ULM. 

In 1967, Don Smith, ULM’s first black graduate, graduated from ULM, known as Northeast Louisiana University at the time. 

While this was a big accomplishment for Smith and the university, it by no means came easily. Smith was called racist and derogatory slurs daily during his time at NLU. 

Now, ULM has had thousands of black graduates since Smith. 

However, some students still believe there is work to be done. 

Ashish Dev, a Nepalese senior computer science student, said ULM does a good job at being diverse, but they need to work on equity. 

Dev said he realized there was a need for change when he struggled to find a place to live over winter break his freshman year. 

Most students get to go home after a week of stressful finals while celebrating the holidays with their families. However, international students and out-of-state students have to struggle to find somewhere to live.

“I think ULM should focus more on freshman students especially the out-of-state  and international students,” Dev said. “For these students who have not made connections, it’s more difficult to find housing for a month when school is closed for the winter break.”

According to Residential Life, students in dorms—except the apartments—will have to move out by Dec. 11. However, students can’t move back in until around Jan. 8. 

This rule means many international and out-of-state students are left paying to live in the dorms for a month, which can be very expensive, or finding somewhere else to live. 

Ivania Vallejo, a scholarship and admission specialist and ULM alum, believes diversity extends beyond race and culture but includes knowledge, sexual orientation and socioeconomic background.

“I would like to see more interaction between the international and domestic students on campus,” Vallejo said. “In the past year, ULM has made some great strides in diversifying our campus […] but I know we can do more as a university.”

Saulsberry said diversity is important in preparing students to excel in the workplace by exposing them to different cultures, races, experiences and thoughts.

“We are striving to be a mirror and a window for the students,” Saulsberry said. “As a window, students should be able to see all the possibilities available for them. Like a mirror, they should be able to see representations of themselves in their fields of interest—an environment where students can see people that look like them in their chosen career fields.”