UC Berkeley Broadens Effort to Attract Underrepresented Minority Students to Berkeley

By Janet Gilmore, Public Affairs

BERKELEY--The University of California, Berkeley, has launched its most comprehensive - and personalized - effort to broaden the number of underrepresented minority students who will attend the campus this fall.

The effort began early this month with groups of students and staff phoning applicants to encourage them to choose UC Berkeley. The campus also plans to both phone and make face-to-face contact with every African American, Latino, Filipino and American Indian student offered admission.

In addition, UC Berkeley is offering these students information about expanded financial aid opportunities. And all applicants admitted for fall 1999 will be invited to a series of small, informal gatherings to be held throughout the state.

"We want to make sure that there is no question in the minds of these students that we want them here at Berkeley - because we do," said Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl. "Our goal is that, through this extraordinary level of personal contact, they will see that for themselves."

Campus officials began expanding their efforts last year to recruit underrepresented minority students admitted to UC Berkeley. Letters were sent to many of these applicants, thanking them for considering UC Berkeley. Videotapes about UC Berkeley were sent to students and high schools throughout the state. In addition, faculty, students and staff placed phone calls to many students.

Such efforts are underway again.

But this year's push to attract underrepresented minorities is much broader. It started much earlier. And it involves more opportunities for financial support.

Instead of waiting to find out which students would be admitted, representatives with the Berkeley Cares program - an effort by the campus's financial aid office to assist prospective students - immediately began targeting a select group of underrepresented minority applicants. Between Feb. 8 and March 2, students and staff began making phone calls to these 1,357 middle- and low- income applicants, offering assistance with the financial aid application process. The deadline to turn in financial aid information was March 2.

Amber Chitty, a senior at UC Berkeley who placed more than 100 calls herself, said some students are unaware of the financial aid deadlines. She added that many students or parents who did not need help with financial aid used the call as an opportunity to have ask questions about student life at UC Berkeley.

"It's great that they have us students calling because we remember what it was like," said Amber. "I tell everybody the most important thing is to visit the campus. Once you come and experience it, everything just clicks."

Amber, an African-American from Covina in Southern California, tells prospective students how she once weighed offers from UC Berkeley, Harvard and West Point. It was her visit to the UC Berkeley campus that convinced her that this is where she would feel most comfortable.

UC Berkeley admission officials are in the final stages of determining who will be admitted. Letters will be issued to students at the end of the month. Soon after receiving their letters, students will receive more phone calls and more letters inviting them to various events.

The goal is to ensure that each student meets personally with someone from UC Berkeley - whether he or she attends a small reception in someone's home in his or her part of the state or comes to campus for Cal Day.

On Cal Day, Saturday, April 17, the entire campus will be open to the public. In past years, as many as 30,000 people have attended special events and learned more about the campus's educational and research activities.

This year, Cal Day also will feature a series of events for underrepresented minority students. These activities will include workshops, campus tours and organized lunches and dinners held by UC Berkeley's Black Recruitment & Retention Center, RAZA Recruitment & Retention Center, Native American Recruitment & Retention Center and Filipino Academic Services.

Attending Cal Day several years ago convinced Ayisha Jeter, now a senior at UC Berkeley, to enroll here. Ayisha, who is African American, had been considering Stanford, UCLA, the University of Southern California, Georgetown University and Dartmouth. After visiting on Cal Day, where she learned about support programs for minority students, met other ethnic minority applicants and checked out the dorm rooms for space, she signed - that very day - an intent-to-register.

It all began with a phone call from a UC Berkeley student, urging her to fly up from her home in Long Beach for Cal Day. Now Ayisha is trying to convince other underrepresented minority students to do the same thing.

"It made a difference with me," Ayisha said, "and you never know. It could make a difference with other people."

Special efforts also are underway to reach certain targeted groups of underrepresented minority students, such as those who will likely major in mathematics, science or engineering - areas in which minority students are underrepresented in colleges and universities across the country.

UC Berkeley's Coalition for Excellence and Diversity in Mathematics, Science and Engineering sent letters to students thanking them for applying to UC Berkeley and inviting them, if they choose to enroll at UC Berkeley, to take advantage of the coalition's academic and personal support programs.

Current UC Berkeley minority students enrolled in math, engineering and science programs also called these students and offered to answer questions about the campus. In February, the coalition held a reception at UC Berkeley for interested applicants. A reception for admitted students is scheduled for April 10 in Culver City.

The coalition's aim is not only to tell these students what UC Berkeley has to offer, but to help them discover which college or university might best meet their needs, given their particular interests and goals.

"We're not just interested in increasing our numbers, " said John Matsui, director of the campus's Biology Scholars Program and a member of the coalition. "We want to provide a service to these students. We want them to find the best fit."

UC Berkeley officials also have stepped up their efforts attract minority applicants from community colleges. Phone calls were placed to these students, thanking them for considering UC Berkeley. And more receptions will be held for these students - six receptions this year compared to only one or two last year.

A host of individuals and organizations have joined in the effort to attract more minority students to the campus, including UC Berkeley alumni associations across the state.

Underrepresented minority students and low income students have access to a variety of financial aid opportunities including the following UC Berkeley-based scholarships:

· The Incentive Awards program at UC Berkeley, funded by private donors and foundations, will provide $25,000 scholarships to low income Bay Area high school students who enroll. The program has expanded this year from three school districts to eight, offering 35 scholarships instead of 19. Students are selected based on factors such as the significant socio-economic hardships they have overcome and their commitment to community service.

· The Singer Family Foundation Scholarship will provide 10 underrepresented minority students with $5,000 over a two-year period. The students must enroll at UC Berkeley, be from the Los Angeles area, have financial need and pursue a major within the College of Letters & Science. This new scholarship is funded by the Singer family of Los Angeles and other private L.A. donors.

· The Partnership Opportunity Scholarship program is funded this year - its first year - by the UC Office of the President and will be funded by private donors in subsequent years. It will provide up to $5,000 to six students who enroll at UC Berkeley. The students must have participated in one of UC Berkeley's outreach programs in area high schools. The students must demonstrate strong academic and extra curricular accomplishments, the ability to overcome adversity and financial need.

· The Achievement Award program, funded by UC Berkeley alumni and other private donors, will provide renewable scholarships of up to $5,700 a year. Under this new program eligible students must enroll at UC Berkeley, demonstrate financial need and must have participated it in an outreach program sponsored by the UC Office of the President or UC Berkeley, in particular. More than 14 awards will be given.

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