FMO leads minority enrollment forum on class of 2013

Christina Salter

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Weinberg junior A’daris McNeese and Communication sophomore Marrion Johnson page through a university brochure on diversity during a forum discussing how to increase black enrollment at Northwestern.
Tommy Giglio/The Daily Northwestern

As Northwestern prepares for the springtime influx of prospective students, current students are hoping to prevent another year of low minority enrollment.

About 30 students attended a Minority Enrollment Student Forum at the Office of African American Student Affairs, 1914 Sheridan Road, on Wednesday night. The forum was presented by the For Members Only Black Enrollment Committee and co-sponsored by Northwestern Ambassadors, FMO, Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta.

The forum was the second of its kind held this year. The first, held late in Fall Quarter, discussed the issues surrounding low minority enrollment in the Class of 2012 and developed suggestions to improve enrollment initiatives both for students and the admissions office, said Phi Beta Sigma President Sam Ludington.

The purpose of the second forum was to follow up on these suggestions, discuss their progress and consider future plans, he said. Another goal was to stress the importance of hosting prospective students in the coming weeks, he said.

Increasing financial aid is one important area of focus for minority enrollment initiatives, said NU Ambassadors Coordinator Bradley Akubuiro. NU’s commitment to a 10 percent increase in financial aid for the next school year was promising, especially considering the state of the endowment, the Medill sophomore said.

“I can’t say there’s nothing they can do better, but I do think it speaks volumes about their commitment,” Akubuiro said. “A lot of other schools had to cut back.”

NU’s promotional materials have begun to better represent the diversity of NU’s campus, said Kaasha Benjamin, a member of the FMO Black Enrollment Committee. Benjamin showed the forum examples of an NU “Open Minds” brochure showcasing minority students and faculty members, which was sent to prospective students this year.

“They seemed to highlight what we are proud of in our community,” the Weinberg freshman said.

The forum was meant to help prepare for the annual Wildcat Days prospective student visits. Almost 200 minority prospective students are expected to attend the April 19-21 Wildcat Days, said FMO Black Enrollment Committee member Breajna Dawkins.

Akubuiro cited Wildcat Days as one of the most important factors in encouraging minority students to attend NU. On average, 75 percent of accepted black and Latino students who attend the weekend enroll, he said.

“The reason why students are coming here is to learn about NU, and we are NU,” Akubuiro said.

Weinberg freshman Maame Asare agreed that prospective student visits are important for enrollment.

“I came to Wildcat Days, and that’s probably the reason I’m here,” Asare said. “It gives a face to NU that you can’t really get from just the pamphlets and Web site.”

Less than 90 students are currently signed up to host prospective students, and many more will be needed to spend time with the students, Dawkins said. She asked students who attended the forum to consider meeting prospective students at the airport or finding time to visit with them during the weekend.

Suggestions at the forum included facilitating meetings with financial aid for prospective students, improving the Black House and inviting President Bienen to attend Wildcat Days and interact with prospective students. The FMO Black Enrollment Committee also plans to organize student dinners for incoming freshmen in their hometowns, beginning this summer.

Associated Student Government presidential candidate Mike McGee spoke at the end of the forum about the progress he has made with minority enrollment initiatives, and his vision for continuing efforts during his presidency.

“We have to be invested,” McGee said. “Regardless of whether I’m ASG president or not, this is something I’ll be working on.”

Both McGee and ASG presidential candidate Bill Pulte were invited to attend “last minute” and discuss their views on enrollment initiatives, Ludington said. McGee was the only candidate able to attend.

Pulte said he had a prior commitment to speak to the Muslim-cultural Students Association board, but looks forward to presenting his plan for minority enrollment to the Coalition of Colors this weekend.

According to NU’s Office of Admissions, 39.5 percent of minority applicants were accepted for next year, compared to 37.3 percent for the Class of 2012. The increase was “definitely encouraging,” and students now need to maintain their enthusiasm for Wildcat Days, Akubuiro said.

“We won’t be satisfied until we find out exactly how many enroll,” he said.

Ludington said he was pleased with the forum’s turnout and has high hopes for the Class of 2013.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we hit 160 to 180 (black freshmen), because of the push of the student body,” he said.