Minority population up in county

Matt Kuhns

Story County’s Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander populations far outpaced the overall population growth between 1990 and 1997, according to a recently released census report.

According to the Federal Bureau of Census, the number of Hispanics in Story County increased by 51 percent, from 840 in 1990 to 1,270 in 1997, and the number of Asian/Pacific Islanders grew by 1,053, a 30 percent increase.

During the same period, the white population of Story County decreased by almost 1 percent.

Hector Avalos, director of Iowa State’s Latino Studies program, said the shift in population make-up indicates that Story County is catching up with the rest of the nation.

Avalos said signs of the influx of Hispanics can already be seen in the Ames community, pointing out “authentic” Mexican restaurants such as La Fuente, 217 S. Duff Ave., and Cazador, 127 Dotson Drive, which did not exist a few years ago.

However, the Story County trend is not consistent with enrollment statistics at ISU.

The number of Hispanic students is slightly lower than last year, according to a university press release, but Avalos said marginal fluctuations in the university’s minority numbers are expected.

Avalos said nonetheless, ISU’s commitment to increased diversity is excellent.

“They’re not just giving [the subject] lip service,” he said.

Avalos said ISU’s Latino Studies program, the only such program among all of Iowa’s state universities, is a major reason many Hispanic students attend ISU.

By establishing the Latino Studies program, university leaders recognized the need for students to learn more about the growing Hispanic community, Avalos said.

Another reason ISU is attractive to Hispanics is its recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, created to encourage awareness of America’s Hispanic community. Avalos said at some universities, Hispanic Heritage Month is not given the level of attention it receives at ISU.

ISU also has much to offer Asian students, indicated by the 588 students enrolled this semester — up 8 percent from last year. Avalos said ISU’s strong engineering and science programs are among the reasons many Asian students select ISU.

Carla Espinoza, assistant vice president of Human Resource Services, said ISU is continually making an active effort to appeal to minorities.

“Instead of waiting for applicants, we’re going out to get the message to them,” she said.

Espinoza said the increasing minority population in Story County is “an asset,” and that ISU will work to communicate with that group.