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Miami hits milestone
Back in 1994, when Miami University set a goal that 10 percent of its first-year class would consist of minority students, many observers said it couldnt be done.
Frankly, when I became the first black vice president of Miami in 1989 I was concerned about the climate for minority students, particularly African-American students. My first goal was to make sure we werent operating a revolving door. I wanted minority students to not just enroll but to succeed, said Myrtis Powell, vice president for student affairs.
The next step was to focus recruitment efforts and tell Miamis story effectively to students, their families and the minority community, she said.
After several years of steady progress, Miami is close to achieving its goal. Powell has announced preliminary statistics show that 9.6 percent of entering freshmen are minorities.
Overall, minority students account for 8.7 percent of all students on the Oxford campus. Retention efforts encourage 86 percent of minority freshmen to return for their sophomore year.
The news is so positive that Miami President James Garland is warning against complacency.
Almost one in 10 freshmen this fall is a minority student and Miamis retention and graduation rates for African-American students are the best in Ohio for a public university. Still, we cannot forget that there is much work to do, he said.
Powell agrees that its too soon to celebrate, but she says shes proud that this fall there are more than 1,400 minority students on campus, 652 of whom are African Americans.
Among the programs and strategies that have been most successful:
• Doubling the amount of financial aid awarded to minority students. In 2000-2001, Miami spent about $3.25 million for diversity-preference scholarships, twice as much as the $1.66 million spent in 1995-96.
• Customizing the recruitment of undergraduate minority students via targeted mass mailings, high school visits, alumni contact, conversations with current students and a mass media effort called the I Am Miami campaign.
• Expanding recruiting and outreach efforts aimed at minority students. Miami invites hundreds of minority high school students from cities such as Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit and Columbus to campus annually for Miami-funded visitation programs. Guidance counselors from predominantly minority high schools are also encouraged to visit campus.
• Encouraging talented high school and middle school students through a variety of programs including Junior Scholars Program, Multicultural Leadership Program and partnerships with high schools and organizations such as Minorities in Mathematics, Science and Engineering.