This past Friday, undergraduate students across the University came together to host a Diversity Town Hall organized by a fourth-year student, Atia. Students and administrators alike participated in various workshops held throughout the day in which they discussed important topics surrounding diversity at UVa. Topics included Course Curriculum, Addressing Implicit Biases, Faculty Diversity and Admissions, to name a few.
I had the pleasure to participate in the workshop on admissions, during which we tried to tackle the question, “How can UVa increase its outreach and set itself apart to attract and retain diverse talent?” In order to effectively answer this question, we first had to humble ourselves and break down the current undergraduate student demographic as it currently stands: ~13% Asian, ~6.5% Hispanic/Latino, ~6.5% Black/African American, 0.1% Native American, ~63% White. When the numbers were further analyzed, it was noted that yield rates take a heavy toll on the student demographics. With that said, what can the University do to increase attraction and retention of minority students? We are aware of the myth surrounding the “typical UVa student,” and in some cases it may hinder recruitment efforts. The admissions office has to consciously target students that would otherwise not apply to UVa for various reasons. Programs like the Outreach Student Admissions Committee (OSAC), run by Valerie Gregory, are setting the bar for aggressive prospective minority student recruitment. One participant suggested that UVa take on early outreach programs across the state, in an effort to excite students about the college process and plant the UVa seed as early as possible across a diverse population of students. College preparatory programs like Urban Prep, POSSE, and Prep for Prep should be at the top of the University’s radar.
The Diversity Town Hall was a step in the right direction for the Undergraduate school. The Dean of Students, Alan Groves, was present along with faculty and administrators from across the University, like Dr. Michael Mason from The Office of African-American Affairs. When thinking about diversity and recruitment, the University should consider what it can do to set itself apart from its counterparts and competitors. Going the extra mile to find students unfamiliar with the University of Virginia name may prove to be vastly rewarding in the long-run.