The Black Student Alliance hosted College Day Friday, Oct. 14, with local Charlottesville high school students. The event sought to encourage college attendance and expose students to the University.
The day-long event began with a breakfast, followed by an introduction from Associate Dean of Admission Valerie Gregory, which debunked common admissions myths. Visitors then listened to a student panel showcasing different majors and educational opportunities at the University.
“We invite local high school students from the surrounding Charlottesville high schools to come and just explore and see and hear about U.Va.,” Shadelle Gregory, a second-year College student, said.
Members of the University Guide Service then led students on a tour of the University, followed by a guest lecture from Michael Mason, assistant dean of the Office of African-American Affairs, after which students participated in a resume building workshop hosted by Career Services.
“I like planning things and helping U.Va. and giving back,” Gregory said. “I also like mentoring students so I’m glad we have College Day here and allow students to see this environment.”
College Day is just one of many events organized by the BSA to encourage black students to find their home at the University. While College Day is exclusively for high school students, other events allow those enrolled at U.Va. to find a personal community within a large school.
“For me coming here, it’s really overwhelming to be surrounded by a lot of people and BSA really made U.Va. feel like home,” Gregory said. “They give you a community with a lot of us going through very similar things. That’s why I love it.”
Third-year College student Tyler Ambrose said he finds the BSA plays a crucial role not only in encouraging University attendance but also in the retention of students.
“You can get black students here but it’s a second matter to consider issues of retention,” Ambrose said. “To me, the Black Student Alliance provides an opportunity to students to begin to place roots here and find some involvement in something that’s meaningful to them.”
Faculty like Mason play an important role as well, Ambrose said. By seeing black faculty, black students are able to feel more comfortable at the University.
“I know black professors that I haven’t even had classes with,” Ambrose said. “Seeing black faculty and staff makes a difference. Even if I’m not in their class, I’ve interacted with them in some capacity.”
There are 105 African-American full-time and part-time faculty members of a total 2,972, according to 2015 data from Human Resources System. Comparatively, African-American students comprise 6.1 percent of the University population.
“Being here, you can see the difference,” Gregory said. “It’s very white, but [to] someone who’s not used to that you just think, ‘Wow, this is really white.’”
Moving forward, the BSA hopes to continue their efforts for a better University climate. These efforts, published in April 2015 in a document entitled “Towards a Better University,” include requests for increasing the black faculty and student yield.
“If you have an active Black Student Alliance, that’s attractive to black students considering the University, but then to have it be something that’s comprehensive and meaningful and active in the community is something that black students can remember and become engaged with and encourage them to stick around,” Ambrose said.