There aren't too many Aggies who get more face time than Roland Martin, but his is a face that isn't a stereotypical Ag. That very fact is something the CNN contributor, radio host, author and columnist is hoping will change.
He says he's not a jewelry guy, but Roland Martin always wears two rings on the air and off -- a wedding band and his Aggie ring.
"A lot of people ask me all the time, 'man, how in the world did a black guy from Houston decide to go to Texas A&M,'" Martin said Saturday at his induction in the Former Journalism Students Association Hall of Honor. "I said, 'Because of what it stood for and what it represented.'"
The cultural landscape of Texas A&M was surely quite different when the 1991 grad was earning his journalism degree. He vividly recalls telling people he made it from Houston to College Station on a scholarship. It was an academic one, but people would ask him what sport he played.
"I want people to look at the reality that you can be an African American student, you can be Hispanic, you can come to this school and not play football or basketball," Martin said.
In its efforts to diversify, A&M appears to be scoring this decade. While statistics show white enrollment has stayed statistical steady, all minority categories have risen, including two targeted categories. Since 2002, the black-non-Hispanic category is up 48 percent, and the Hispanic student totals are up 57 percent.
"We are not going to stop until we get to a point where we really, truly reflect the face of Texas," said A&M President Elsa Murano, "and we're very excited about many efforts that we have underway that I think are going to help us to do that very quickly."
If reflecting Texas is the goal, there is still a ways to go. The latest Census Bureau numbers are from 2006, when just under half the state's population was white. At A&M that fall, three-fourths of students enrolled were white.
The university was well below state averages for African Americans and Hispanics.
The school's goal is one Martin shares.
"First of all, from the moment I graduated, I've been in contact," Martin said. "I've worked with every university president since I've left. Last year, I actually wrote a letter that they sent to other students. I'm actually going to be shooting a video."
Video and columns and books and opinions are what Roland Martin is becoming known for nationwide, though if he and his family has their way, it won't take that to keep a family tradition alive.
"I have nine nieces and four nephews, and all of them have other Aggie gear," Martin said. "All of them have walked through this experience. We made it perfectly clear that as many of them are going to be future Aggies as well."
Martin's brother and sister are also Aggies.
Texas A&M has touted this year's minority freshmen as the largest group ever to arrive on campus.
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