Students Need To Know They Matter - Higher Education


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Students Need To Know They Matter

by Toni Coleman

One message that emerges in this annual “Recruitment and Retention” issue is that minority students matter, and universities committed to their success will give students the tools they need. That is clearly demonstrated in the feature story “Structured for Success,” about how the tools to empower minority students are woven in the fabric of the Wake Forest University community, resulting in enviable enrollment and retention rates.

When WFU saw a significant drop in Black student enrollment, Dr. Barbee Oakes, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, wasted no time in trying to reverse the trend by improving the office’s liaison with other university departments. OMA staff build relationships with minority students, starting with recruiting trips to meet prospective students and parents, and, through strengthened ties with other departments, they ensure Black students get enough financial aid, mentoring, internships, study abroad opportunities and other support.

“Here, in the university community, we let students know that they matter from day one to the day of graduation, and we help them navigate the journey of higher education,” says Oakes. “Black men attending traditionally White institutions, especially, need to know they matter.”

The University of South Florida’s Latino Scholarship Program is another successful retention program that provides students with what they need and that’s more than money. Private benefactors mentor the students whose educations they fund. To have someone interested — and financially invested — in their success motivates students to do well.

“They really inspired me; they encouraged me. The best thing they did for me was believe in me and tell me that I could do it,” says USF graduate Javier Rosado in “Money and Mentorship” of the retired couple that funded his education. The pending presidential election has captivated the world, due in large part to the history-making candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama. In “Putting Barack Obama’s Candidacy in Historical Perspective,” correspondent Ibram Rogers talks with Nikki Giovanni and Drs. Molefi Kete Asante, Darlene Clark Hine, Manning Marable and Shelby Steele about Obama’s impact on the phenomenon of race, Black America and their own scholarship.

Says Ibram: “When I interviewed each of these five scholars individually, their thoughts exuded persuasiveness and passion, but when I put the responses together it created an overwhelmingly brilliant and evocative treatise on Obama and his campaign. It was a thrilling experience to retrieve and document the thoughts of some of the most pre-eminent scholars of our time on some of the most pressing issues of our time.” We hope you enjoy these interviews and the rest of the magazine. As always, let us know how we’re doing.

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