Photo by Rob Felt

Tech’s new freshman class is the biggest in the institution’s history, and boast impressive diversity among other things, according to Rick Clark, Tech’s Director of Undergraduate Admissions.

What set accepted students apart, according to Clark, was not just academic aptitude, but the ability to help others on campus by fostering a beneficial environment. During this past year’s admission cycle, the Admissions department also went to great efforts to seek out and recruit non-engineering students.

“We do want to be more curricularly diverse,” said Clark. “In the last few years, for example, our College of Computing is clearly more well-known and well-respected throughout the world. And with the other four [non-engineering] colleges in particular, there are strong, strong efforts for growth there.”

The class of 2019 is not just the largest Tech has ever seen, but may well be the largest class for the foreseeable future, according to Clark.

“This year’s class is over 3,000 students,” Clark said. “This isn’t official, but my assumption is that next year we’ll try to balance it back down to something like 2,850.”

This semester marks the first in five years that all of Tech’s on-campus residence halls are online and in use. New dining and teaching facilities are in construction on west campus, which will be completed by August 2017.

According to Clark, Tech has enough space to house and teach classes of this size. All that those larger classes really require, according to Clark, is a more creative use of teaching spaces.

While he found its size impressive, Clark was most surprised by the diversity of this year’s class. For example, women comprise 41% of the Tech freshman population this year, which is a record high for all of the institution’s history.

“I really put all credit [for this] with our current female students and the Women’s Recruitment Team, and their almost grassroots-type effort,” Clark said. “All those coffees they had, individual coffees and individual tours and calls and handwritten letters — all the big stuff [that the admissions office] was doing was important, but that is where I felt like it made a difference.”

According to Clark, the class of 2019 also has much ethnic diversity. Of the freshmen, 49% are Caucasian, 25% are Asian, 8% are Hispanic, 7% are African-American, and there are 11% other or blended, and this data would suggest that Tech looks to continue its trend of welcoming students of all different creeds and backgrounds to the Tech community.

Unfortunately, Clark did also note that building a diverse community is not without conflicts and growing pains. He addressed how incidents, including the controversy over an alleged incident of racial harassment involving members of a Tech fraternity, continue to be problems.

“It’s embarrassing. It’s so unfortunate, so saddening that we would have students who are academically so smart, and yet can act so ignorant and so classless,” Clark said.

According to Clark, it would be disingenuous to suggest that such conflicts do not exist at Tech, in the South, or in the nation at large, and these incidents demonstrate why diversity is such a valuable thing.

“By creating what we have here, there’s an opportunity for people from homogenous communities to be exposed to curricular diversity, gender diversity, socioeconomic diversity and racial diversity,” said Clark. “Hopefully what we achieve here is tolerance and understanding.”

For the freshman class of 2019, there were 27,270 applicants from all over the world during the last admissions cycle, and 32% were accepted. These numbers make this past admissions cycle the most competitive in Tech’s history, as they were respectively the highest and lowest ever for the institution.