Number of applicants spikes, particularly minorities

Emerson College experienced a 21 percent jump in minority applicants over the past year, after new initiatives to increase diversity on campus were put in place.

MJ Knoll-Finn, vice president of student enrollment, said Emerson sent student volunteers to high schools in their hometowns to talk to guidance counselors and perspective students. The college invited some guidance counselors to visit Emerson to familiarize themselves with the school and its programs as part of the Strategic Diversity Plan.

“Last year the college paid for guidance counselors from high schools serving predominantly urban, minority students to fly to Boston and get acquainted with the college’s professors and academic programs,” Knoll-Finn said.

Knoll-Finn said the Strategic Diversity Plan, a set of goals mapping out strategies to increase minority applicants, was started at the request of alumni, the Board of Trustees and students. One goal of this plan is to keep the percentage of diverse students at a minimum of 20 percent, which Emerson has exceeded by about four percent.

“We have an obligation as a higher education community to prepare our students to go into a world that is diverse,” said Gwendolyn Bates, associate vice president for diversity and inclusion. “It’s not enough to attract and retain people of color, it is also important for us to make everyone on campus feel like they are part of the community.”

Ramon Calderon, a Latino freshman, was influenced by his guidance counselor and a teacher who is an Emerson alum to apply. Calderon, not knowing much about the school at the time, based his decision to apply solely on those recommendations.

“Everyone looks at Emerson as a gay school or a hipster school and I feel that a majority of the students here are Caucasian,” the writing, literature, and publishing major said. “I do like that [the college] is reaching out to diverse people because a lot of people haven’t heard of Emerson.”

Calderon said he has debated his suitemates over the validity of affirmative action at Emerson.

He refuted one suitemate who said that Calderon was accepted because of his Hispanic background, citing that he was valedictorian and had a high involvement in extra-curricular organizations. Ultimately, the debate ended with one conclusion, Calderon said: although trying to increase diversity at Emerson is a good thing, accepting someone into a school based on race is not.

Calderon said that advertising the school’s desire to raise diversity can make it seem as if the process is more about numbers than credentials.

“I think that trying to recruit more people from diverse backgrounds is good, but doing it just for the sake of looking good is not the reason you should accept someone,” he said.

Jon Allen, an African American freshman, said he believes that the strides Emerson is making will have a positive effect on the Emerson community.

“I think it is good that they are targeting diverse students,” said the marketing major. “Emerson only accepts the best of the best students anyways; diversity only will benefit the school and allow students to learn from people with different cultures.”