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Cultural climate change

Mizzou welcomes record-high enrollment of black students

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  • Story by Ryan Gavin
  • Photos by Shane Epping
  • Published: Feb. 5, 2009
Jabari Turner

Jabari Turner, coordinator of culturally diverse recruitment programs, has played a role in increasing the population of minority students on campus.

When LeAnn Stroupe came to Mizzou as a freshman in 1987, she was part of a small, close-knit, supportive group of black students.

Now, as the university's coordinator of visitor relations, she sees the black student population growing and those students' experiences changing as they branch out across campus.

"Because there are more outlets, there are more opportunities for blacks to be involved in different things; there are competing things black students can do," Stroupe says.

Students now come from more diverse backgrounds as well, she says.

"We started attracting black students not just from the suburban parts of the state but the inner-city parts of cities in the state," says Stroupe, who has worked for Mizzou since 1993. "It's a change from what they had experienced throughout their earlier education."

This academic year, the University of Missouri announced a record-high number of black first-time college students. The 422 incoming students accounted for 7.3 percent of Mizzou's largest-ever freshman class, a segment 20 percent larger than the previous year. But how did such growth come about, and what does it mean for the university?

Focusing efforts

Students check in

Students check into extended-campus housing at Tiger Diggs.

MU has seen record or near-record enrollment of black students every year since taking a new approach to recruiting. Ann Korschgen, vice provost for enrollment management, was at the forefront of these efforts and credits several different factors for the increases.

"We made it a priority to directly recruit more minority students, and our strategies have been very effective," she says. "We have a culturally diverse recruiter who has targeted minority students and has had a great impact."

That recruiter is the coordinator of culturally diverse recruitment programs, a position created in January 2004. Jabari Turner, who currently holds the job, works to foster better relationships with families and counselors in Kansas City and St. Louis, as well as Boone County.

In addition to the coordinator, a second Chicago-area admissions representative was added, allowing MU to split the area into north and south sides. Chino Hogue, who previously held the coordinator job, is working in the area now and has helped drive some of the increase.

But another large part of the credit goes to current MU students, who Director of Admissions Barbara Rupp says are sometimes the university's best recruiters.

"As more underrepresented minority students come to campus and meet with students of color attending Mizzou, they learn about opportunities and seem to be feeling very comfortable here," she says, "and that, in turn, causes many students to seriously consider us."

Jeff Williams, director of access and urban outreach, also helps increase minority enrollment. He works with potential MU students, usually those still in high school, to foster access for underrepresented populations and show them college is an attainable goal. Although enrollment at Mizzou isn't the push for every student targeted by Williams and his staff, many of the students do come here because the program helps facilitate access.

Along with the outreach programs, Williams directed the implementation of the Missouri College Advising Corps. Recent Mizzou graduates across the state work, usually one-on-one or in small groups, to help students with things such as applications and financial aid. "It's a daunting process for someone who's never done it before," he says.

Increasing black enrollment hasn't always been easy. Because of the country's struggles with race in the past, reaching people who have experienced racism, some of whom have college-age children, can be a challenge.

"Some of these families have had sort of a lingering resentment," Williams says. "Now they come to campus, and it's a welcoming environment where students not only come to college but experience success."

Committing to diversity

That success isn't limited to any one type of student, nor is it limited to a student's time at the university. An education on a diverse and culturally rich campus is something many employers actively seek in potential new hires. And with the recent push to a global economy, cultural awareness has become even more highly valued.

"Employers really want to recruit from a diverse student body," Korschgen says. "They want employees who have been educated in a diverse environment to join their workforce."

Freshman enrollment at Mizzou is expected to dip in 2011, as the number of high school graduates in the state of Missouri starts to decline. However, minority enrollment percentages could possibly increase during this period of overall decline, according to Office of Admissions data.

"As people learn more about Mizzou, they become more interested, but then it also becomes a numbers game," Senior Associate Director of Admissions Chuck May says. "What we are happy about is that [Mizzou is] becoming more representative proportionally of the population within the state of Missouri, and we'd like to continue that."

That expectation currently looks like a safe bet. Applications from black students have increased by 335 from last year, black student admissions have increased by 170 from a year ago, and enrollment fee deposits from black students have increased by 16.

With the services and opportunities offered, as well as increased access and affordability, MU hopes this year's record enrollment is just the beginning.

"When I tell people about the university, I tell them about ARS (Academic Retention Services), the Black Cultural Center, the number of faculty members on our staff," Williams says. "When they learn about all of those options and see the campus, it's not hard to make an argument for why they should come here.

"As we go forth, MU is really carving out a niche. The university is getting record-high numbers for a reason."

Read more in:  Family & CommunityArts & CultureBeyond CampusOn CampusEducation

Reader feedback

  • Thank you for the article regarding the advancements Mizzou has made in increasing the diversity of the student body. I appreciate the importance of diversity in a learning environment in that the mix of cultures can only enhance the experience of MU students, faculty and staff.

    However, during my time as a student at MU, I've wondered what efforts the university makes to increase diversity in the graduate school. Can the same practices which led to record-high enrollment of black students in the undergraduate student body be utilized for the same effect in the grad/professional schools?

  • We agree that diversity is important to the learning environment and appreciate the opportunity to elaborate on some of our most successful efforts to increase diversity at the graduate level.

    The Graduate School continues to seek out alternative measures in which to increase diversity in our graduate programs by recruiting and retaining a diverse student population. Through such initiatives as the Emerge Undergraduate Fall Preview Weekend, the university is able to offer opportunities for underrepresented students to meet with individuals in their respective programs of interest.

    Also, the Graduate School offers the Graduate Student Orientation program which provides students with individualized, discipline-specific academic advisement and also acquaints students with the basic survival skills required for comfortable adjustment to the graduate-life culture.

    These programs also seek to better acclimate students with the MU campus and Columbia-community. We continue to be progressive in our efforts to attract diverse populations to MU graduate programs.

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012