Colleges in Western North Carolina Struggle to Recruit Blacks
The lowest enrollment of Blacks in five years at the University of North Carolina at Asheville has forced changes in how the school recruits minorities.
Chancellor James Mullen issued the demand after just 10 Blacks enrolled with the 438 freshmen who started at the college this fall.
Appalachian State and Western Carolina universities also struggle to attract Black students to western North Carolina, a region with a mostly White population.
Just 6 percent of the student body at Appalachian State is Black, though the school is trying to increase that number to 10 percent.
The faculties at the schools also lack diversity — just 14 of UNC-Asheville’s 160-member faculty are Black, seven out of 309 Western Carolina faculty members are Black, and ASU’s 914-member staff includes 14 Blacks.
“We realize we’ve got to do something to turn this around,” says Dr. Dwight Mullen, who was appointed to the newly created position of vice chancellor of minority affairs at UNC-Asheville. A student recruitment and retention plan will be unveiled later this year, he says, and a revision to the core curriculum is expected, with a greater emphasis being placed on diversity.
Western Carolina and ASU have also responded with special mentoring problems and are trying to improve the social life and community life for Black students.
A contingent of Western Carolina staff began this year setting up admission offices in hotel lobbies located in largely minority areas as part of its own recruitment fair.
“Diversity adds flavor to the university,” says admissions director Dr. Phil Cauley. “Diversity is something to value, not something to be seen as a burden.”
ASU is abiding by a diversity plan that calls for 10 percent minority enrollment by 2008. Currently, minority enrollment is 6 percent. The college this year started school counselor lunches, offering a free meal to those who sent at least seven minority applications to ASU in the last two years. The college also pays to bring potential Black students to Boone for a free weekend stay in hopes they’ll fall in love with the campus.
The recruitment efforts alone are not enough, says Heather Wathington of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. There must be campus programs and activities targeted to minorities.
To help create a larger social circle, the schools have formed the Western Carolina Mountain Leadership Networking Program, which begins in January.
Western Carolina’s director of multicultural affairs, Dwaun Warmack, said the three schools will offer a weekend social event on a rotating monthly basis; the function will be tailored to minority students.
But the Association of American Colleges and Universities said the colleges could do a better job at recruiting Black faculty members — the national average is 4 percent.
“You don’t do it just with the students,” says Caryn McTighe Musill, a spokeswoman with the association. “You do it with curriculum and programs. You make it clear that part of what you value is diversity. And that includes the type of leadership you provide.”
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