By Victoria Gill
Upon stepping foot on campus during the busy hours of the Washington College academic year, individuals take note of students rushing to lunch, discussions of a recent test, campus tours, and a lot of brick. Another visible characteristic of the campus: the student population is not extremely diverse.
According to the WC website: “Of our 1,480 students, 18% are minority students and 9% are international. WC students come from 21 states and 29 countries.”
Some students on campus are critical to the under-representation of voices and ethnic organizations within the college community.
Current students should not be relying on new batches of young voices to rise up with inclusive dialogue of representation. There are many student organizations on-campus that are looking for students to be allies.
Are current students doing enough to support the enrollment and marketing of the college by sharing their own stories?
There are some students that blames the Admissions Office, based in the Casey Academic Center, for a lack of effort in recruiting students during the tuition increase. However, the past summer has brought me to understand that the staff and student workers of Admissions are actually doing more than the current students themselves.
Vice President of Enrollment and Marketing, Dr. Lorna Hunter, oversees administrative work and strategies Admissions executes.
“My favorite part of what I get to do is work with students. Getting to do interviews, have talks with them about how they can afford an education here, but that not what I do the most of,” Hunter said.
Hunter has more than sixteen years of experience growing and maintaining enrollment numbers for various sized universities. Depending on the institution this shifts with who is on campus. According to Hunter, there was already a desire to diversity students as of late, whether that be through sexuality, ethnic and racial, or socio-economic status.
What is to blame for the decreasing number of potential students when President Landgraf expressed his desire in 2018 to increase the student population? Is blaming a certain group the correct answer?
The criticism is given to the Admissions Office with regard to tours, open houses, and accessibility to students.
The strategies in the past year have exemplified a desire to reach out to students of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is up to the students of WC to maintain a positive dialogue that expresses a desire for change and the actions to reinforce it. What can the rest of the student population do to help? What are you doing to promote this school?
“[Students] can talk about their experience. They can talk wit about it when they’re home. They can talk about it when they’re on vacation. That kind of work of mouth spreads when they talk about their experience here,” Hunter said.
Yes, there are qualms regarding the administration and how certain situations are handled. It is fair and honest to say that criticism of the college experience is natural for everyone, including myself. Unfortunately, these same complaints are mirrored outside the campus grounds and established in our own government climate.
When you meet a new student on the Cater Walk, or a student on a tour, are there moments when you reflect on the great things about WC? The faculty and staff who care about both your well-being and your academic potential? Your peers who make the experiences better and your understanding of a broader perspective?
“I love the history of WC. You walk about here everyday and you’re steeped in it,” Hunter said.
A professor at the University of Texas, Sheen S. Levine, said in a New York Times letter to the editor, “when people interact with others who are ethnically different, they come to process information more carefully, re-evaluating beliefs.”
We even praise certain members of the Admissions Office, but students scoff at this group because in the end, students choose not to come here; something Admissions cannot control.
“You put in place the people who can go out and it’s their job to wake up every morning thinking about ‘how do we get more international students here? How can we get more racial and ethnic diversity, gender diversity here?’” Hunter said.
The Admissions Office is attempting to show students from various backgrounds obtainable success in their future careers.
Some of this standstill comes from a lack of accessibility. A 2018 Washington Post article by Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council of Education said: “There is no more powerful engine of equity and social mobility in this country than higher education.”
As a Latinx first-generation college student, I did not have helpful resources when navigating the college application process.
The saving grace: WC was able to answer my questions about their application on a one-on-one basis that was friendly and understanding.
“They really care. They care if someone has a good experience. They care to fix it if they don’t” Hunter said.
The student population is intimate and intersecting enough for any opinion to be heard. Why not bring helpful suggestions to the table? Why not have an aspiration to see this college succeed and help future students understand that they have the potential to do so as well?
“They grow because there is an accountability and you are seen” Hunter said.
Having more diverse students, both ethnically and academically, present their college experience is a factor I think Admissions could work on. Conversely, this comes down to a desire to learn. The students they pick have diverse interests and want to see the school succeed.
“We are who we are. The best thing we can possibly do is be authentic about who we are and to let students known in a very real way. I would love to be able to have every student have that feeling that students who have been here a couple of years have: that community, that way they can interact with their professors, the internships and the ability to have those internships pay for. All of those things that you know now we try to convey to potential students so that they have a real authentic about what this town is, what this community is, how much people here really feel about that. And to be able to make an informed authentic choice that this is a good feel for them,” Hunter said.
In the end, Hunter and I agree that the decision to attend WC is due to factors out of anyone’s control. However, the dialogue has room to grow positively.