Admissions Committee
Annual Report, 2009-2010

2009-2010 Admissions Committee: Melissa Youssef, student; Elise Lineberger, student; David Gandolfo; Matt Olson; Cinnamon Stetler; Paul Thomas (Chair); Mark Woodard;Wade Worthen; Bill Berg; Brad Pochard

The Admission Committee met five times formally throughout the 2009-2010 academic year, and we conducted business by email and through the FirstClass forum.

We formed two subcommittees that focused on our primary areas of concern:

Review of Student/Athlete Applications:

Matt Olson
Mark Woodard
Wade Worthen


Melissa Youssef
Elise Lineberger
David Gandolfo
Cinnamon Stetler
Paul Thomas

The committee drafted, approved, and presented to the faculty a Diversity Strategy on 1 March 2010 (appended below).

The committee reported to the faculty 14 April 2010 that the Admissions Department will be revising the test-optional admission policy during the summer of 2010 and reporting the revised policy in the fall 2010.

The chair would like to thank and commend the members listed above for their work and service throughout the year.

Paul Thomas, Education

                                                            Comprehensive Diversity Strategy

Consistent with the recruitment goals articulated in the current university strategic plan, the Faculty Admissions Committee has been exploring ways to increase the diversity of our student body with respect to race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, geography, and religion. We are motivated in this endeavor by the following factors:

·    A more diverse student body will provide each Furman student with a wider range of experiences while at Furman, in and out of the classroom, producing graduates who are better equipped to engage the diversity of our world.  
·    A more diverse institution will increase the quality of the educational experience offered to students at Furman.  

We are aware of the need to maintain Furman’s high standards of quality.  We recognize, however, that diversity is itself an aspect of a high-quality education.  We believe it is possible to increase diversity while maintaining Furman's high academic standard.  As we raise diversity, the overall educational experience will be enriched and the quality improved.

(A snapshot of the current state of racial, ethnic, socio-economic, geographic and religious diversity at Furman is provided at the end of this statement.)

Given the challenges and limitations of the current economic environment (we write during the 2009-2010 academic year), our plan is divided between short-term, low-cost measures that can be enacted immediately, and long-term, high-cost measures that the university can undertake when economic conditions improve.  Our goal will not be met if underrepresented students (and their parents) making decisions about where to go to college do not see Furman as a welcoming and affirming place for all students.  If they do not, then enrolling a diverse class will be a constant challenge.

Short-term recommendations:

1    Ambassador Program: The Ambassadors give the campus tours, and they also reach out by phone to prospective students; they are a critical part of the admissions experience for prospective students (and their parents) who are considering Furman.  The Admissions Committee and Admissions Staff should work closely with the Ambassadors to increase the diversity among the Ambassadors and to increase the attention given to the topic of diversity on the campus tours.  Given that talking about diversity on the tour might be awkward for some of the Ambassadors, special training will need to be designed.  Fundamentally, the Ambassadors should be knowledgeable about diversity and its importance, be supportive of the goal of increasing diversity, and be comfortable and competent in speaking about diversity.

2    Involving current underrepresented students in the Admission’s process: (This might be an extension of the preceding suggestion.)  Special effort should be made to bring the current underrepresented students into the Admission’s process.  Outreach efforts should be made to student groups with a high percentage of underrepresented students or who are supportive of the need to increase diversity; such groups should be invited to participate in the Ambassadors Program and in other efforts to recruit underrepresented students.

3    High School Guidance Counselors: In the university’s communications with HSGCs, it should begin to “re-brand” Furman as a place that is serious about increasing its diversity.  How many GCs do not recommend FU to students from underrepresented groups because they think such students would not fit into the culture of Furman?  No doubt, at least some.  We can change that.

4    Scholarship Day: In the past, the university has brought a couple of dozen HSGCs to campus on Scholarship Day (the day when prospective recipients of FU’s best scholarships are all brought to campus for interviews).  It is expensive to bring these GCs to campus, but if the university is going to continue to do this, we should bring in counselors from schools that are likely to send more underrepresented students to FU, counselors who themselves value diversity and can help FU achieve its diversity goal.

5    Support from the Top: Diversity should become one of the major initiatives of the next president’s first five years.  As much as “engagement” and “sustainability” have shaped the institution in the past 5-10 years, so should “diversity” shape the next 5-10 years.  We need public buy-in from the President, Provost, and Dean.  Their public addresses; their talks to faculty, parents, and alumni; their meetings with trustees – in all of these settings, the contribution of diversity to the excellence of a Furman education should be stressed.  This costs nothing, and it sets a tone that empowers those members of the university who want to work for more diversity and fosters a campus atmosphere that is more affirming of and welcoming to diverse students.  To aid senior administrators in this endeavor, the Admissions Committee and Enrollment Office could prepare materials that highlight the ways in which diversity contributes to excellence of education, and/or relate it to other aspects of Furman’s “Mission Statement” and “Character and Values Statement.”

6    Seek Support for Diversity Initiatives: The Development Office should seek support from donors, alumni, and volunteers who specifically show interest in supporting the university's diversity initiatives, programs, and students.

7    Promotional Materials: In the university’s promo materials (videos, brochures, web presence, etc.), especially the materials that are sent to prospective students and to High School Guidance Counselors, diversity should be stressed.

8    Bridges to a Brighter Future: The Bridges program deals with a broad range of diverse students.  These students are already exposed to FU as part of their program, and a number of Bridges alumni have come to Furman – so we're not suggesting that we try to “capture” more Bridges students.  Rather, the leadership of Bridges should be consulted on FU’s diversity initiative so that they might contribute their good ideas on how FU could a) attract more diverse applicants, and b) become more comfortable and appealing to underrepresented students.

9    Curriculum: In addition to a more diverse faculty and a more diverse student body, the diversity of the curriculum is a major factor in how comfortable underrepresented students feel on campus.  Of the three, diversifying the curriculum is the least expensive.  FU’s curriculum is already doing a good job here, but more could be done.  In the same way that the institution has found money to encourage teachers to add sustainability to their syllabi, perhaps some incentive funds could be found for diversity.  Leadership from the top is important here.  

     10.  Outreach to Prospective Underrepresented Students: When qualified diversity applicants are identified, faculty who are willing to help out should contact them directly to answer any questions/concerns the applicants may         have and to show the institution’s interest in providing a welcoming and affirming atmosphere for underrepresented students.

      11. Focusing Financial Aid: Without increasing the total amount of financial aid given, the university should undertake an examination of the priorities upon which grants in aid are awarded, with the goal of seeing whether some     portion of that aid can be re-directed towards the goal of enrolling a more diverse student body.

      12. Alternative Admissions Policies: The university should explore alternative admissions policies that address the historical inequities of standardized measures such as SAT and ACT.  We should consider test-optional procedures that have been implemented successfully in other colleges and universities, with particular emphasis on institutions similar to Furman.

Longer-term recommendations:

1    Increasing Financial Aid for Underrepresented Students with Financial Need: This item is similar to #10 above, but involves increasing the total amount of aid awarded.  New scholarships might be created specifically to increase diversity. 

2    Hiring a More Diverse Faculty.  Certain of the diversity characteristics listed above (e.g., geographic diversity) are less important when talking about the need to diversify the faculty.  The important diversity factors here are race, ethnicity, and gender.  When high school students tour Furman, they should see faculty that will make them feel like they’ll fit in here.  Leadership from the top will be important here.

Some current measures of diversity at Furman:

Racial/Ethnic Makeup of the Student Body (from the 2009-10 Common Data Set):
81.3 % White
7.0 % African American
6.1 % Unknown
2.3 % Asian
1.9 % Hispanic
1.4 % non-resident alien

Socio-Economic Background of the 2009-10 Freshman Class (from CIRP Survey):
Family income
under $25,000    5.1%
$26-50,000        9.5%
$51-75,000        15.0%
$76-100,000        15.7%
over $100,000    54.7%
$100-150,000        18.2%
$151-200,000        10.5%
$201-250,000        5.0%
over $250,000    20.5%

Geographic origin of student body (from OPIR):
South Carolina    31.6%
Georgia        14.8%
North Carolina    11.2%
Tennessee        7.1%
Florida        6.4%
Alabama        3.9%
Virginia        2.5%
SOUTHEAST    77.4%
Other States contributing significant numbers of students: Texas (2.9%), Kentucky (2.0%), Ohio (1.8%), Pennsylvania (1.6%), Maryland (1.6%), Massachusetts (1.0%), Illinois (1.0%), New Jersey (1.0%).

Religious and denominational preferences of student body (from OPIR):
Baptist        13.0%
Presbyterian        12.7%
Other Protestant    11.5%
Roman Catholic    10.9%
Methodist        10.6%
None            7.1%
Episcopal        5.0%
Other            1.9%
Lutheran        1.7%
Not Reported    25.6%

 “Other” includes: Alliance, American Methodist Episcopal, American Reformed Presbyterian, Apostolic, Assembly of God, Baha'I, Buddhist, Charismatic, Christian Reformed, Christian Scientist, Church of Christ, Church of God, Congregational, Disciples of Christ, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, Moravian, Muslim, Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, The Church of Latter Day Saints, Unitarian, United Church of Church, Wesleyan.

Drafted and approved, 2009-2010 Admissions Committee

Bill Berg
David Gandolfo
Elise Lineberger, student
Matt Olson
Brad Pochard
Cinnamon Stetler
Paul Thomas (Chair)
Mark Woodard
Wade Worthen
Melissa Youssef, student

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