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 Diversity and UMD

UMD is striving to create a campus open to the world: exchanging ideas, exploring cultures, and discovering the excitement of differences.

The world is changing, and UMD is changing right along with it. Today’s students are exposed to more cultural experiences than ever before, and that exposure is helping them grow by gaining new perspectives. This expanded worldview is shared with friends, classmates, and professors, and it makes UMD stronger.

Consider the statistics. According to a 2009 report by the Chronicle of Higher Education, in the U.S. there are 18 million college students. Of those, close to 36% are American ethnic minorities and international students studying in the U.S. The number of Native American students is near 200,000, Asian Americans number 1.2 million students, and African Americans continue to be the largest ethnic minority represented on our campuses at over 2.3 million. Hispanics/Latinos are the fastest growing demographic, close to 2.1 million students. There are nearly three-quarters of a million international students studying in the U.S.

At UMD, the percentage of students of European descent is still higher than the national average, but the number of students of color is increasingly diverse. Today there are 162 American Indian students, 335 Asian/Pacific students, 152 African American students, 11 Hawaiian students, 119 Hispanic students and 252 international students enriching the diversity of the UMD campus. In addition, UMD’s population of students with disabilities and students who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) are about the same as the national average.

UMD celebrates diversity and is committed to providing a climate that doesn’t just tolerate differences but values them and provides rich opportunities for learning from those differences. On these pages, you will find profiles of a few of our students.

“It’s not about where we’ve been, it’s where we are going that is important. All faces will build this century....”


Dr. Lendley (Lynn) Black
UMD Chancellor

Exposure to diverse views broadens our perspective and increases our knowledge. Click on the photos below to learn more about these students.

gibran brian amy rundong anna
raina heron aliina andrea rigbe
jd cat kyle calvin isad
nathalie shoua



Gibran Hashmi

  • Hometown: Karachi, Pakistan
  • Major: Chemical Engineering
  • Year: Junior

I am the president of the Muslim Student Association. I helped organize the Fast-A-Thon during Ramadan to raise money for Pakistan flood victims. I am also the vice president of the International Club and the president of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society on campus. I like volunteering and making a change in people's lives. Motivated individuals who seek to do selfless acts for the larger good of the community inspire me.


Brian Robertson

  • Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisc.
  • Major: Marketing
  • Year: Junior

I am the president of the Black Student Assocation. Being president has opened many doors for me as I find myself gaining respect from my peers, family, and professors. I am African American, and I love business and finance. I push myself everyday of the week, because when it’s all said and done, I want to say I was successful in my four years at UMD.



Amy Yang

  • Hometown: Brooklyn Park, Minn.
  • Major: Health Care Management
  • Year: Senior

I am Hmong and grew up in Minnesota, but my parents immigrated here in 1981 after living in a Thai refugee camp. They have done a lot for me and have always taught me to value my education. With education comes the opportunity to broaden my horizons. It also gives me a chance to meet new people and learn about our differences. More than that, it gives me a chance to learn about our similarities.

I have been an active member of the Asian Pacific American Student Association and am currently working with International Student Services. My goals are to make my parents proud, be successful, and live a fulfilling life.


Rundong Zhang

  • Hometown: Suzhou, Jiangsu, China
  • Major: Mechanical Engineering
  • Year: Junior

My parents went to college in China. I was given an opportunity to study abroad at UMD so I took it. I like volunteering and am active in student organizations on campus. Iím vice president of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association and a Goldfine Scholar. Iím also a member of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society.



Anna Hewitt

  • Hometown: Eden Prairie, Minn.
  • Majors: English and Teaching Communication, Arts, and Literature
  • Year: Senior

I have mild cerebral palsy. My disability is a part of me, but does not define me. Last semester, I taught a lesson on disability rights to my peers and am currently team teaching the class Teaching in a Diverse Society with [Associate Professor] Helen Mongan-Rallis.

In the summer of 2009, I traveled with 13 other student delegates with disabilities to Costa Rica with Mobility International. I learned how difficult it is for people with disabilities in many countries to get around.

My perspective has been transformed and enhanced as a result of this trip, and I am ready to travel again. Next semester I will student teach English in Belize.


Raina Ryu

  • Hometown: Bundang, South Korea
  • Major: Music
  • Year: Senior

I played the violin for about 16 years before I came to UMD. Right after I got to UMD, I had to audition to see where I would be placed. The audition was in the Weber Music Hall, and it was really scary.

My violin teacher is [Associate Professor] Rudy Perrault. I thank him for helping me and caring for me as I study at UMD. I am in both the Chamber Orchestra and the Symphony Orchestra, and I like them for different reasons. Each instrument is clear in the Chamber Orchestra, and you can hear the complexity of the music.

I also have a business minor which is really interesting for me. I am planning to graduate next fall semester, and I am excited to go back to South Korea.




Heron Abegaze

  • Hometown: Burnsville, Minn.
  • Major: Psychology
  • Year: Senior

My parents and I moved to the U.S. from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia when I was 13 years old. They influenced me so much because they overcame many obstacles in order to make my life successful. I am proud that I was accepted into a four-year university, especially since I had to learn a new language and culture when I was so young. Being involved with the Black Student Association is important to me. I'd like to get my masters degree in public health and work with third world organizations. 


Aliina Charging Hawk

  • Hometown: Deer River, Minn.
  • Majors: Pre-Pharmacy, American Indian Studies
  • Year: Senior

I am the president of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and a member of the Pre-Pharmacy Club. I was raised on the Leech Lake Reservation and have a diverse ancestry. My immediate family is Native American, Black, Finnish, and Puerto Rican, and I have a sister-in-law from Israel.

Despite my varied background, I have lived a strong Native American family life: my family attends area Pow Wows around Minnesota every weekend. My two daughters, ages twelve and two, have done traditional Native American dancing since they were babies. They inspire me to be successful. I want to work so that they may have a good life.



Andrea Lares

  • Hometown: Albert Lea, Minn.
  • Major: Sociology
  • Year: Junior

I am a coordinator for the Student of Color Panel program, part of the Office of Cultural Diversity. UMD has predominantly white students and staff, so the panels show them what some diverse students deal with on a daily basis. We share facts about racism and stereotypes. I, myself, have experienced unintentional and subtle racism. Sometimes I am asked to speak for an entire population but I let them know I’m not Moses. I can’t speak for ‘my people.’ I can only speak from my own experiences. By saying that out loud, I share my feelings with my teachers and classmates.

I work as a student intern for the Office of Cultural Diversity and a peer advisor for the Chicana/Latino Student Programs. My mom, who is a social worker, taught me, growing up, to be proud of who I am and to be willing to branch out. I feel I am following her footsteps on my path through college.


Rigbeselam Mengistu

  • Hometown: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Major: Psychology
  • Year: Senior

I’d like to do behavior analysis working in the organizational psychology field. When I came
to Duluth I was alone. I learned a lot of confidence introducing myself to strangers.

I know the victim of a racist incident that made news last spring. A collaboration formed on campus on short notice. They held a “speak out” event, and they organized the March Against Racism. One of the most memorable moments for me was walking the three miles from downtown Duluth to the campus. Walking in silence was really, really powerful. After the march, we listened to speakers. Every word was genuine and passionate. People spoke from the heart about stopping racism now. I had the chance to experience the bad and the good at UMD. I learned that being aware of racism, and discussing it right away when it comes up, is a powerful way to fight against it.



J.D. Holmquist

  • Hometown: East Bethel, Minn.
  • Major: Community Health Education
  • Year: Senior

I openly identify as a gay cisgender male. I currently volunteer and work with the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, I work with the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department at UMD as a teaching assistant for health classes, and volunteer with many of the organizations on campus doing educational seminars on college drinking and sexual health.

I am on the executive board of the Queer Allied Student Union. I am also involved with the Peer Health Educators, Alcohol Peer Educators, Student Health Advisory Committee, and the Administrative Smoking Ban Task Force. I hope to be a successful health educator. Now that I know what I want to do with my life, I feel empowered to obtain my goals.


Cat Brindisi

  • Hometown: Chanhassen, Minn.
  • Major: Theatre
  • Year: Senior

I played Queen Elizabeth in Richard III and had parts in six other UMD productions. This spring, I’ll play Penelope in the Odyssey.

Director Tom Isbell works with actors in an ensemble setting. He makes every role and script so personal, you can’t help throwing yourself into the work.

I was fortunate to be chosen as one of the four students to travel to Turkey in 2008. There, we taught musical theatre workshops to about 40 students. They were wild and crazy, just like theatre students in the U.S. I was amazed when our host students would drop everything to take care of us. After we visited Istanbul, students came to the U.S. to present the musical Footloose with us. Then, the following January, UMD students traveled to Turkey to perform at their university. I still stay in touch with the friends I made in Turkey.



Kyle Watson

  • Hometown: White Bear Lake, Minn.
  • Major: Teaching Communication, Arts, and Literature.
  • Year: Senior

My father has always been a constant in my life. He is willing to do anything to just ensure that I am happy and comfortable. In middle school it was tough to try and figure out my sexuality, as well as dealing with the normal adolescent stuff like how to fit into society and who I was as a person.

One of my successes is that I have been chosen as the chairperson of the Queer and Allied Students Union. Succeeding in college, holding a part-time job, as well as maintaining a wonderful relationship with my girlfriend are all very big and important achievements to me. I would like to teach high school grammar. Someday I hope to marry and maybe even have a kid.



Calvin Nguyen

  • Hometown: New Hope, Minn.
  • Major: Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Year: Senior

In spring 2011, I will be the first member of my family to graduate from college. I am Vietnamese, and my parents lived in Vietnam during the war.

I currently work at ABE Environmental Systems doing computer programming and code writing. I love computers, and I always strive to make my family proud.



Asad Jawed

  • Hometown: Karachi, Pakistan
  • Major: Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
  • Year: Junior

I came to UMD with the encouragement of my father. He lacked the resources to pursue his education, but always encouraged my siblings and me to learn as much as we could. Throughout my studies, my father has been a source of inspiration.

I like helping people. I mentor my fellow international students, and I am a student leader. I am the vice president and web developer of the Muslim Student Association. I am also a member of the International Club, Cricket Club, Math Club, and Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Club.


Natalie Klueg

  • Hometown: Duluth, Minn.
  • Major: Women's Studies
  • Year: Sophomore

I have been openly bisexual since I was 18 and have always had the full support of my friends and family. I am driven to give every queer student that same amount of support.

I am a non-traditional student. I started at UMD in 2002. A few years later, I was forced to take time off due to a health condition that causes migraines. This has affected my education, but I have persevered and hope to graduate in the next few years. Graduating in four years works for some, but, for me, it’s taken longer. After I graduate from UMD, I will go to graduate school for social work, hopefully on the east coast. I hope to one day work with queer youth in a high school or college setting as an advisor.



Shoua Vang

  • Hometown: St. Paul, Minn.
  • Major: Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Year: Junior

I am Hmong, and my parents are from Laos. I like math and science and strive to work hard to succeed at my goals. I volunteer at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club. I love working with the children because I can tell I am making a difference in their lives, and I can see that they look up to me.




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Last modified on 02/02/11 11:57 AM
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