The processes challenged in the lawsuits against the University”s admissions policies are not the only programs in place to attract and retain minority students. Programs focus on making students feel that the University is a place where they can fit in and then provide them with a sense of community once they arrive.

“More and more students want to be on a campus that has a commitment to diversity,” said Theodore Spencer, director of undergraduate admissions.

Student groups serve to provide minorities with a valuable sense of community and belonging, without which they may feel alone and more likely to leave the University before graduation.

University-sponsored programs bring about 3,200 pre-college students to campus every year. Some programs bring students to observe a day in the life of the University, other programs bring students for extended stays. Not all are focused on minority students some target underrepresented areas such as geographic regions instead.

But minority students are heavily focused upon, both here and in the rest of the Big Ten.

“Michigan, in terms of student admissions, is right in the top two or three,” Spencer said.

Asian students are usually most represented among minority students in enrolling classes at the University, usually making up about 12 percent of a class. African-American students usually make up 8 or 9 percent, Hispanic students compose 4 to 5 percent, and Native American students make up 1 to 2 percent of any given class, Spencer said.

Minority students are most likely to be first-generation college students which makes them less likely to be aware of higher education options.

“It is important to get underrepresented minorities exposure early on,” said John Matlock, associate vice provost and director of the Office of Academic and Multicultural Initiatives. “We want them to leave feeling that this is a place they can be a part of. We want them to think about going to college.”

Students from different generations often take part in the programs, with older students serving as mentors.

“The projects are successful because of the strong participation of students,” Matlock said.

Students provide perspective and insight that the administrators who coordinate the programs simply cannot.

Gloria Taylor, OAMI program manager, said student leaders in the programs are selected with consideration to different life experiences. Geographical backgrounds, class backgrounds and academic interests are taken into account to ensure that student leaders in the programs are diverse, she added.

“We think students respond to the programs very, very favorably,” Taylor said.

Some programs are geared toward emphasizing the presence of specific minority communities on campus, such as the American Indian community.

The state of “Michigan has a large Native American population, and the fact that we have so few students here is kind of problematic,” said Steven Abbott, student services associate for multiethnic student affairs. “Hopefully we can get more outreach programs going.”

Programs are in place to establish contact with students at tribal colleges other programs are targeted at high school and middle school students.

“Student groups really need to play a pretty large role” in recruitment, Abbott said. Students already established on campus can give potential students a picture of what opportunities are available at the University and what the campus climate is.

“It is very, very difficult for people to leave their home community,” Abbott said, adding that many American Indian students come from places with a strong sense of family and community.

“It is a unique challenge to leave their community to come to a mainstream university where they will be so sharply in the minority,” he said.

Student groups on campus can foster a sense of community for Native American students.

“They”re going to be one of the biggest support mechanisms while they”re here,” he said.

Once they are here, the University faces the challenge of retaining enrolled students, particularly among minority students.

Myriad student groups and initiatives are designed to help students find their niche on campus. Some are focused on community service or special hobbies. Others are focused on certain ethnic minorities, serving to strengthen the sense of community on campus.

“Student groups are extremely important,” Matlock said. While it is important for students to do well academically, Matlock said he realizes that non-academic ventures can be equally important to students” well-being. Many student groups allow students an outlet for their creative and cultural sides that may be difficult to express in the confines of a classroom. Groups also provide a sense of community and opportunities for leadership.

“Fortunately, as an institution we”ve been very supportive of those activities,” Matlock said.

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