The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Looking to diversify

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Many prospective students hear rumors that Southern Methodist University is not a place for minorities. Most of them never find out if the rumor is true.

SMU is attempting to change this aspect of the university’s reputation with new initiatives promoting ethnic diversity on campus.

Pavielle Chriss, an admissions counselor and the coordinator of Diversity Initiatives, said SMU’s struggle with low minority enrollment is not unique.

“A 20 percent minority is what you will generally find on a private university’s campus,” she said. “I do not think we are facing a crisis, we just need to increase our visibility and finally dispel the rumors.”

This is where the new initiatives are making progress. 

The Provost has monthly meetings with a committee of key decision makers on campus to discuss how to implement an increase in the quantity and quality of minority students on campus, Chriss said. The SMU Mustang Scholars program was sparked from this committee.

“This program targets first-generation and underrepresented students in the Dallas Independent School System with full financial awards, faculty mentors, and special programs emphasizing career skills and academic success,” Chriss said.

The Provost’s Office also provided funds and staff members for SMU to host the first annual Hispanic Youth Symposium last June, Chriss said. This event brought approximately 200 Hispanic high school students to SMU, allowing many students their first experience on a private university’s campus.

“The event was a huge success,” Chriss said, “and the Provost’s Office has already confirmed more funding for next summer.”

SMU President Gerald Turner has shown a personal interest in the committee’s effort by hosting welcome reception for minority students in his home.

The welcome reception allowed prospective students and their parents to speak with current students, faculty members, as well as staff from various departments around campus, according to Chriss. The students who attended are then invited to monthly follow-up luncheons and dinners to track their experience at SMU.

Chriss said that of the students that attended the reception nearly 90 percent of the students chose to attend SMU.

Wendy Blackburn, a sophomore theater major, was one of the students among that 90 percent.

“I spoke to the head of undergraduate admissions for a very long time,” Blackburn said. “Everyone’s hospitality made the decision for me immediately.”

With an apparent move toward increasing the minority enrollment on campus, Chriss also clarifies that SMU is not lowering its standards.

“We’re reaching out to high achieving minority students that are academically capable of succeeding in college,” Chriss said. “It would not be fair to accept minority students solely to increase our numbers.”

With minority applications increasing by 20 percent from last year, Chriss is confident that SMU is in a good place to move away from its bad reputation.

“We have tons of opportunities, programs, and initiatives set in place to change the face of SMU’s population for the better,” she said.

 

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