Despite the drop in minority applications and enrollment in the
College of Literature, Science and the Arts, the University’s
efforts to promote diversity thrived in the graduate programs this
year, as minority enrollment increased in the Law School, Medical
School, and Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

Sarah Zearfoss, director of admissions at the Law School, said
the trend of rising applications and enrollment from blacks,
Hispanics and Native Americans continued this year. “In 1997,
22 percent of the incoming class were minorities, and since then
there has been a pretty steady increase in minority
enrollment,” Zearfoss said. This year, 27 percent of the
incoming class comes from underrepresented minority groups, she
added.

More people overall are applying to the Law School, but in
general there has been a slightly larger increase in minority
applications, Zearfoss said.

“The commitment we showed toward minorities brought a lot
of positive attention from minority students,” Zearfoss said,
referring to the University’s defense of its race-conscious
admissions policies in the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

The Law School focuses on having a diverse and talented student
body, but does not solely look to race to achieve that goal,
Zearfoss said.

“We do a holistic reading of applications,” Zearfoss
said, “We read every application and consider each piece of
information. It’s not just about race and scores —
those are just two of many factors we use to review
applicants.”

The Medical School also had an increase in minority student
enrollment this year. Katie Horne, who stepped down this summer
after serving as the school’s director of admissions for 13
years, said enrollment of minority students varies each year, but
this year saw a record high, with minorities making up 21 percent
of the incoming class. Last year 13 percent of students were
minorities.

“The application pool continues to increase each year and
so has the trend among minority students,” Horne said.
“Over the past 10 years it has fluctuated from as low at 10
percent to this year’s high of 21 percent, but for the past
three years it has been increasing,” Horne said.

Many other schools across the nation are experiencing a similar
trend. For the second straight year, applications to medical
schools nationwide increased and enrollment went up, especially
among minority students, the Association of American Medical
Colleges announced last month.

As for the application process, Horne said students can indicate
their racial background on the application, but it is not a
requirement. “We aim toward a wide definition of diversity,
looking at different age groups, regions of the country and other
things besides just race,” Horne said. “A diverse
student body improves the educational process, and students have
been a big part of the recruiting efforts.”

The student-run Black Medical Association started a welcome
weekend that encourages minorities to feel comfortable at the
University. Ndidi Unaka, a second year medical student and current
president of the association, said she remembers noting the
University’s dedication to diversity when she applied.

“Coming to welcome weekend solidified my decision to come
here,” Unaka said, “The University made minority
recruitment such a priority, and I was impressed by what a tight
group the students of color were.”

As president of the Black Medical Association, Unaka said she
makes sure that minority students applying to the University feel
as comfortable as she did. “We host programs where African
Americans can stay with BMA members for the night, and as we
address their questions and concerns, we focus on making students
feel more at home,” Unaka said.

Unaka said she feels the University’s medical program is
successful in achieving diversity. “There is a lot of
diversity, especially in the class below me, and Michigan makes it
a priority to get the chance to meet minority students and faculty
before coming to the University,” Unaka said.

Like the University’s law and medical schools, Rackham saw
a slight rise in the population of minority students, from about 24
percent in 2003 to 25 percent this year. John Godfrey, assistant
dean of Rackham, said, “For the past five years there’s
been an increase in minority enrollment, and we put a lot of effort
into reaching out to minority students.”

Unlike undergraduate admissions, where mainly admissions
officials read applications, faculty from graduate programs across
the University are deeply involved in Rackham’s admissions
process, Godfrey said.

“The applicant indicates their race on the application,
but overall graduate programs and the admissions office are looking
for quality and how ready the students are to pursue their
master’s and Ph.D’s,” Godfrey said.

While the law and medical schools saw an overall rise in
applications, Rackham’s number went down from 20,000 in 2003
to 17,000 this year. “About half of the applications we
receive come from overseas, so the decline in the applications this
year stems a lot from international students discouragement over
visa issues,” Godfrey said.

But the drop in applications did not coincide with a decrease in
the minority population. This year, about 25 percent of all Rackham
students are minorities.

“We constantly work to encourage minorities to apply to
the University, and Michigan is among the very top leaders in
production of minority Ph.D.s,” Godfrey said. “There is
a lot of footwork put in by the graduate programs themselves to
encourage diversity, and we evaluate every application in regards
to individual merits.”

As the University’s graduate schools prepare for next
year’s enrollment, they are confident that minority numbers
will continue to rise, Godfrey said.

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