University admissions programs focus on minority outreach
Guides, Monroe Society, Admissions shape programs to welcome underrepresented groups
“When we point out Newcomb Hall, for example, it’s easy [to] say that it’s a place to grab a meal, and it’s just as easy to include that this is where the LGBTQ Resource Center is,” Guides Speciality Tours Chair Domenic Puzio said. “Or when stopping at the Amphitheatre and orienting the group, we can point out the International Studies Office in Minor Hall and the Office of African-American Affairs located behind Bryan Hall.”
Minority students make up 28.3 percent of the student body, according 2012-13 student demographic data. Aware of such numbers, the University Guide Service, the Monroe Society and the University Admissions Office make concerted efforts to welcome minority students to Grounds.
The Monroe Society provides free overnight stays for prospective students with first-year hosts. Prospective students are able to attend classes with their hosts and eat in the dining hall, said Isiah Manalo, a fourth-year College student and Monroe Society President of External Affairs.
“Last year we worked with Julie Roa, the Program Coordinator for Hispanic/Latino, Native American, and Middle Eastern Student Services, to better provide for low socio-economic and minority students.” Manalo said in an email.
The Monroe Society underwent numerous changes to help address socioeconomic concerns after working with Roa. Manalo said the Society now stresses the prospective student’s comfort as one of the most important factors in how much high school students enjoy their visit to the University.
“We emphasize that the most important thing for hosts to be aware of is the comfort level of their prospective students during their stay at U.Va.,” Manalo said. “That means that our hosts should be aware of what situations and actions their prospectives are truly comfortable with.”
While the Monroe Society itself does not offer any special programs catered to minorities, Manalo said other organizations around Grounds do.
“For example, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers does Juntos Podemos, which hosts prospective high school students and shows them what engineering and college life is like,” Manalo said. “Additionally, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions does Spring Fling and Spring Blast, which are open houses for admitted African-American and Hispanic students, respectively.”
Making campus tours more inclusive has been a major focus when training new University Guides in the past year, said third-year College student Domenic Puzio, Guides speciality tours chair.
“We want to craft tours that are welcoming to a broad variety of prospective students and that highlight our school’s diversity,” Puzio said in an email. “And when we discuss diversity, it’s not simply in terms of race; we want to express the incredible variety of interests at U.Va., whether your passion is artistic or nerdy or athletic or service-oriented. In short, we want to help prospective students of all backgrounds see that they can find their place here.”
On tours, guides discuss events, resources and organizations relevant to minority groups, Puzio said.
“When we point out Newcomb Hall, for example, it’s easy [to] say that it’s a place to grab a meal, and it’s just as easy to include that this is where the LGBTQ Resource Center is,” Puzio said. “Or when stopping at the Amphitheatre and orienting the group, we can point out the International Studies Office in Minor Hall and the Office of African-American Affairs located behind Bryan Hall.”
Puzio said Guides requires members to listen to panels representing minority students at the University and asks new members to attend cultural events put on by various student organizations.
“On another note, we also discuss issues of race in our historical tours,” Puzio said. “We hear from speakers from Monticello that teach us ways to address the issue of slavery in our tours, and a large part of our training readings discuss Jefferson and his University’s views on slavery. ”
But Puzio said Guides is also working to increase its diversity internally through an aggressive recruiting push among minority students.
“I can say that the Guide Service is not perfectly representative of our student body in terms of race, socioeconomic class, Greek life participation, and other attributes,” Puzio said.
According to Puzio, Guides needs to improve its internal diversity to give tours which welcome a variety of students to Grounds.
“Note here that our focus is not in filling some quota of minority students,” Puzio said. “[I]nstead, this is an awareness that we, in our role of giving tours, are weaker because we lack the perspectives of minority students in our group.”
University Dean of Admissions Gregory Roberts said his office reaches out directly to students from minority and underrepresented communities.
“We have an Outreach division of the Undergraduate Admission office, and deans in this unit work closely with high schools and student populations from underrepresented backgrounds — hosting chats, phone call nights, and connecting prospects with faculty and U.Va. students.” Roberts said in an email.
Roberts said the University hosts several events for prospective minority students, including a fall and spring open house program, while also paying to fly in students from low-income households. The University also hosts many college access organizations, as well as high schools and middle schools with students of predominantly underrepresented backgrounds, for special information sessions and tours.
“We are also partnering with organizations like Posse, Questbridge, Mastery Charter School, and the Achievable Dream School to introduce underrepresented students to U.Va.,” Roberts said.