Blankson, Brown attend minority recruitment conference

Colleges and universities across the country look for ways to diversify their student population. A diverse student population is central to many aspects of a well rounded education. SIUE is pursuing an active role when it comes to a diverse student population.

Recently, Isaac Blankson, associate professor and chair of speech communications, along with Vanessa Brown, professor of social work and assistant provost for institutional diversity and inclusion, participated in a conference and recruiting trip in Washington, D.C.

“It’s in line with our internationalization and diversity strategic plan–where we want to really reach out to the students, go to where they are and encourage them to come here [to SIUE],” said Blankson.

This is the second year that SIUE has participated in the conference. According to Blankson, he attended the conference last year with Aldemaro Romero, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). Blankson stated that the conference helps SIUE achieve some of the goals of the diversity strategic plan.

“This is one of the college’s attempts to recruit and diversify it’s students,” said Blankson. “There is a range from pre-med to communications, international studies, psychology, biology, nursing. So even though this is a CAS thing that we started, the benefits are for the whole university.”

The conference, Minority Access’ “12th National Role Models Conference” is sponsored by Minority Access which, according to their website is “a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization that supports individuals, academic institutions, federal, state, and local government agencies, and various corporations to diversify campuses and work sites by improving the recruitment, retention and enhancement of minorities.”

“The conference seeks to achieve–in my view–two main purposes– to connect universities with minority students who are ready to go to college,” said Blankson. “The second part of the conference is really to encourage and to assist colleges and universities to promote diversity on their campuses. Last year, we [the College of Arts and Sciences] were actually recognized for our diversity initiatives on campus. This year, what we did was to go and focus much more on the recruitment part, how we can connect with the students and try to get them to campus.”

Students interested in attending the conference have to meet certain guidelines to participate. According to Blankson, students must prove that they are ready for college courses by maintaing a minimum 3.6/4.0 GPA. Blankson stated that this shows the students are serious about their academic pursuits.

Blankson, who also serves as a special advisor to Romero on diversity and internalization initiatives, stated that Romero has been very proactive in finding different avenues for pursuing diversity. Romero sees these initiatives as a method to broaden the experiences of students at SIUE by increasing the minority student population.

Isaac Blankson, chair of speech communications and special advisor to the dean of CAS on diversity and internationalization initiatives, speaks to students.

“I’ve been actively recruiting minority students in conferences such as “Minority Access” and having CAS webpage translated into 14 different languages to show that we are welcoming of diversity,” said Romero. “This provides our local students with opportunities to know people with different backgrounds and, hence, to open their eyes to the world.”

Blankson stated that last year at the conference, less than 25 students expressed interest in SIUE, while this year there were more than 50. Blankson said that the names of interested students have been given to admissions and recruiting to pursue. Names of students who expressed an interest in certain areas of study were shared with departments so that a dialogue can begin and for any questions the students have can be answered directly by the department.

Blankson stated that he and Brown attended several sessions where they learned of a variety of opportunities for student internships, and tools to recruit new students and provide scholarly opportunities to current students. He stated that there were many high level government officials sharing information on how to improve diversity and retention of minority students. Blankson stated that next year the university is considering sending admissions counselors to the conference.

“Next year, Dr. Brown and I were discussing the possibility of going to the conference with people from the office of admissions, rather than us,” said Blankson. “It seems to be a good recruiting tool for the university.”

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