Diversity Initiative addresses admissions

December 3, 2009

The working group formed to increase attentiveness to diversity issues in Georgetown’s admissions process revealed a draft of its extensive recommendations to the University in a broadcast e-mail last Tuesday.

In addition to highlighting the need for more financial aid and scholarships, the Admissions and Recruitment Working Group proposed adding an essay question about prospective students’ backgrounds to Georgetown’s application, and hiring a bilingual staff member in the Office of Student Financial Services. The group also proposed increasing minority student participation in Blue and Gray and the Georgetown Admissions Ambassadors Program, and creating an advisory group to the Dean of Admissions for diversity-related issues.

The ARWG is one of three groups that comprise the Diversity Initiative created by University President John DeGioia last spring in response to the findings of the Student Commission for Unity and the outrage over The Hoya’s April Fools’ issue. The other groups focus on academics and student life. Originally, all three groups were supposed to have drafted their recommendations by the end of November, but so far only the ARWG has done so.

To co-chair Ryan Wilson (COL ‘12), the ARWG’s most significant recommendation is to establish an advisory group to the Dean of Admissions.

According to Wilson, as the students and faculty in the working group brainstormed suggestions to improve the prospective student experience, they tried to bring in the people who would be responsible for making the changes.

That strategy seems to be working, at least in the case of GAAP and Blue and Gray. In their report, the ARWG recommended that “the organizations recruit a more diverse volunteer base.” Two weeks ago, GAAP sent an e-mail to the students on its mailing list asking them to answer an optional question about their ethnic background.

“[GAAP] is gathering information on the student groups affiliated with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions,” the e-mail explained.

Two members of the Undergraduate Admissions staff, Senior Associate Director Jaime Briseno and Assistant Director Kamilah Holder (SFS ‘02) are also involved in the ARWG. Briseno and Holder said they were most concerned with making sure any new measures are effective.

Briseno and Holder both said that the most effective way to improve the yield of minority students is to increase financial aid.

“All of us would like to see a more diverse set of students here, but across the board the reason why students don’t come to Georgetown is financial aid,” Briseno said.

The ARWG will have a chance to get feedback from the University Community at a town hall meeting tomorrow.

“It’s just a draft,” Holder said. “If there are things that need to be strengthened or added, we are open to that. It’s a starting point, and we want it to shift and grow.”

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