Today marks the beginning of the Fall Multicultural Visitation Program weekend (MVP), which was previously in the spring. MVP weekend is a program in which select high school seniors from diverse cultures visit UR to experience diversity through a series of programs, including dinners, guest speakers and performances. Perspective students are hosted by UR students from Thursday through Sunday.

Director of Diversity Enhancement and Director of Admissions for New York City Joseph Latimer is instrumental in planning MVP, as well as generally improving interest in diversity at UR. Latimer took the time to sit down with the Campus Times and define his roles and goals for minority enhancement.

What are the roles of your position?

I wear two hats: director of diversity enhancement and regional director of admissions for New York City. Diversity enhancement is ensuring that the admissions staff and financial aid are involved with messaging about UR to diverse populations near and far, to attempt to bring to the table students who bring different world views, perspectives, experiences to the table as applicants so that when we admit a class, we have people who represent mixed cultures and backgrounds and perspectives.

The regional director of admissions piece that’s simple: New York City, five boroughs. What are the schools, who are the counselors, what are the new schools, who are the educators, who are the alumni, how do we get the word about Rochester [out] to a population of over eight million people with thousands of high school students. So there’s a staff of us who travel to the boroughs of New York to bring the message about Rochester to that area.

Since you came here in 2006, would you say that there’s been any improvements in terms of a diverse pool of students?

Absolutely. There’s been a real huge increase in getting our local students understanding who we are and what we expect from them from fourth grade and higher.

Spring of 2009, all the admissions counselors attempted to see and interact a message to every eighth grader in the Rochester City School District to let them know what our expectations of them are so that they could meet those expectation and can tap into this Rochester Promise, which is worth $25,000 a year for four years to anybody who graduates from the RCSD or who transfers to us after graduating and starting somewhere else. So even locally we’ve put a lot more attention to the kids in our backyard who we’d like to see here. The football camp, the Roland Williams Football Camp bringing kids here to take part in this campus, so Rochester scholars and Rochester scholar juniors bringing kids here, us going out to them. So improvements, absolutely. When you look at the diversity within the application pool, you’re seeing that we’re doing an excellent job.

One of the challenges is that a lot more kids hate the boxes, so they’re not defining themselves. So when you look at our percentages of applicants admitted who are coming, those are fine, but what about the kids who aren’t checking the boxes because a more multi-racial society is immerging. We’re not doing a really good job of welcoming who they are.

If kids are getting into Rochester, they’re also getting into other places who also have their missions of being diverse. So you’re competing with wonderful schools out there to try to matriculate these kids. But I think that we’re doing a great job of ensuring that in our applicants we have the diversity that we expect and want. I think the other piece that needs to take place is ensuring that the kids that come here with diverse backgrounds and different world views, that they share that with this community. So if I come here from the Bronx, it’s easy to find the other kids from the Bronx, but that’s not what I should be doing. At least the University wants me to bring the Bronx perspective to the kids from other areas, so I think that’s one of the challenges. So it’s obvious that we get pulled toward people who are like us, and we tend to feel comfortable. But bringing that sort of experience to other groups of kids who want to learn how it is to grow up from wherever they’re from.

When did MVP start and what was its original purpose?

I got here in May of 2006 and MVP came in several years before that. It was held in the spring and it was a process by which to ensure that we had kids visit campus who represented this diversity that we admitted and hoped to matriculate and [by] putting programs together that allowed them to come and visit to ensure that a part of them already existed here. So if I come to this place called UR, that based on my academic and co-curricular and other interests, [I can be sure] that it would be represented here. So MVP was a spring activity for admitted students and we would get between 45 and 60 admitted students here during that event.

Well, things have changed now. We have the Renaissance Scholars, we have Rochester Early Medical Students, we have the Rochester Early Business Students, we have the five-year bachelors-masters in engineering through admissions. We call these CAPS programs, combined admissions programs, with Simon [School of Business], with Warner [School of Education], with the Medical School, with Engineering. Those kids come to campus as well to compete for those spots. What we find is that diverse talent is coming during those programs as well. We’re encouraging more kids to visit during regular open houses as well. So MVP [was] serving a need that might [have] be[en] too late. Why get these kids excited about Rochester in April when you can get them adamant about Rochester in November and sustain that interest with activities into April, and by May 1 when they have to make a decision of where they’re going to college? So by putting Rochester on their minds earlier, getting them excited earlier and sustain that interest by making sure that we’re talking with them, that current kids are going home and meeting up with them in Starbucks or diners or cafes in their neighborhood. So why make an impression on them once when we can make an impression on them over time knowing that a bunch of kids are already coming to visit?

Are there any questions you would have liked me to ask?

So you see that places in the Southwest are going to grow, and there are children of first-generation families. How does Rochester survive, how do colleges in general survive when you’re located in the Northeast and the kids who you use to bring here are shrinking and the type of kids who don’t tend to go here is growing? How does a place like this reinvent itself, and how do those communities develop their own children to ensure that a college 3,000 miles away is available to them? So not only what we’re doing, as an institution of higher education, to think through that challenge, but the community leaders themselves who have to try and make sure that their kids are filling the seats of a place like this, when in the past this isn’t where they were coming. That’s a national dialogue that’s taking place and it’s a dialogue that will continue to take place as we start to try and understand who next is coming here, when the growth isn’t in New York, the growth is elsewhere and our schools are shrinking. That may be the challenge of higher education; not if you’re a community college. Community is actually growing the cost of education, the recession. We’re not a community college, then how do we stay alive?

Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.



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