SRU using on-campus visitation days to increase student diversity
Slippery Rock University’s Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging has partnered with SRU’s Admissions Office to host several visitation days for high school students from inner-city schools or schools with higher concentrations of underrepresented students.
Nov. 21, 2022
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — The diversity found on college campuses is one of the reasons why attending college is a transformative experience. For many students, college may be the first time they've had the opportunity to talk to and learn from people with vastly different backgrounds than their own. Right now, approximately 12% of Slippery Rock University students have self-identified as underrepresented minorities. For Anthony Jones, SRU's new chief diversity officer, this number represents opportunities: to bring new perspectives to campus, to create new student pipelines and to help create a vibrant campus community.
Unfortunately, there's no magic dial for increasing the student diversity rate. It requires spending time with people and connecting with them to understand what they want and need, and how SRU can help them.
"We need to help underrepresented students become aware of the opportunities that exist at SRU," said Jones who joined SRU in December 2021. "A big part of that is getting them to campus. We're off the beaten path, especially when it comes to inner-city students, but once we get them here, they can see how beautiful campus is and start to visualize this as a place for them."
Jones and his office, the Office for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, have partnered with SRU's Admissions Office, along with several other departments across campus, to host several visitation days for high school students from inner-city schools or schools with higher concentrations of underrepresented students. All students from those schools with a grade-point average of 2.7 or higher are invited to attend a morning of programming geared toward the college experience for underrepresented students. Thanks to a state funding to help recruit students from diverse backgrounds, SRU provides bus transportation to and from their high schools.
To date, there have been five visitation days, each welcoming between 30-50 students each visit. Those schools include Chaney and East High Schools in Youngstown, Ohio, and New Castle, Sharon, Farrell and General McLane high schools in western Pennsylvania. The students spent an entire morning on campus and attended presentations given by staff in the Admissions Office and the Office of Inclusive Excellence. These presentations focused on what it takes to enroll and succeed at SRU. Students also got a chance to meet current students and learn about SRU's academic programs from faculty.
While getting students to visit campus is very important, it is only the first step. Their families must be involved early on. Jones' doctoral work explored the connection that exists between family involvement and the probability of Black males attending and persisting to graduation.
"Family involvement is a huge part of why students persist and ultimately graduate from college," Jones said. "Especially for underrepresented first-generation students -- when you go to college, it's almost like everyone in the family is going. So we're going to invite the students back in the spring and get their families involved as well."
Jones said visitation days are intended to create a pipeline of students from diverse backgrounds who would not otherwise consider SRU. In addition to creating upward social mobility for underrepresented minorities, a more diverse student population improves the collective experience for everyone on campus.
"We're trying to create a community that develops our students for the world they are about to enter," Jones said. "There's a lot of research that shows that being part of a diverse community makes people more productive, more inclusive and more considerate of others, and that will make students who graduate much more marketable for employment."
While SRU's number of underrepresented minorities was already on the rise, these efforts figure to continue that trend. The 2022 first-year class included 16% more underrepresented students compared to the previous year's first-year class.
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