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Diversity draws students to UW-W

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Carla McCann
October 23, 2007
— Brittany Jackson wanted to spread her wings after graduating from Wauwatosa West High School.

She dreamed of attending a southern college.


UW-Whitewater wasn’t even on her radar.


“I had never heard of Whitewater,” Jackson said.


It wasn’t until a high school guidance counselor suggested the African American teen visit UW-Whitewater that she discovered the historic campus in the heart of the city.


Today, Jackson is among the university’s multicultural success stories.


She is a senior, majoring in psychology. After receiving an undergraduate degree, Jackson intends to earn a master’s degree and then a doctorate, she said.


UW-Whitewater programs to help multicultural students make the transition to college recently were recognized by the publisher and editor of UMOJA Magazine, a Madison-based publication offering positive African American news.


“Because of the success rate in graduating students, UW-Whitewater has been nicknamed The Black College in the Midwest,” said UMOJA Editor Milele Chikasa Anana. “But that success rate is a good thing, and we hope Whitewater is exerting more efforts to retain that title.”


Whitewater is doing just that, said Roger Pulliam, assistant vice chancellor of academic support services.


The university has a variety of programs to support multicultural students, Pulliam said. Students are encouraged to be involved in campus activities and affairs. It helps them become part of the daily life within the campus community, Pulliam said.


Students also are encouraged to participate in undergraduate research, study abroad and participate in international internships, he said.


UW-Whitewater’s retention rate for all students is about 75 percent, but the rate is lower for students of color, Interim Chancellor Richard Telfer said.


“It has been as high as 77 percent and as low as 65 percent,” Telfer said.


On the advice of students, the university is assessing the effectiveness of some of its multicultural programs, Telfer said.


It’s already known that when students of color are involved in campus programs and activities they become part of the community much quicker and the retention rate increases, Telfer said.


Efforts also are in progress to have multicultural students work with other campus organizations as another way to bring the student population together, Telfer said.


For LeQuez Spearman, a public relations major, UW-Whitewater is the answer to his dreams.


Spearman, 21, attended Messmer High School in Milwaukee and will graduate from UW-Whitewater in May.


He’s in the McNair Scholar program, which prepares first-generation college students for doctoral study and eventual careers as college professors, and is grateful for the opportunities presented at UW-Whitewater.


“UW-Whitewater heavily recruited at my high school,” Spearman said. “Few other universities took the time to do that, but Whitewater made the effort.”


MULTICULTURAL CHALLENGE

UW-Whitewater has a variety of programs to recruit and retain multicultural students:


-- Wheels to Whitewater: Provides transportation for minority students in such cities as Milwaukee and Beloit for a day at the college.


-- McNair Scholars program: Prepares first-generation college students for doctoral study and eventual careers as college professors.


-- King/Chavez Scholars program: Chooses high school students based on their academic potential and gives a seminar that supports students for the transition from high school to college by providing a peer group for academic and social reinforcement.


-- College Transition Program: Provides academic support services to students, who are first generation, low-income and or learning or physically challenged.


-- Learning Community: A new program that houses freshmen in the same residence hall so that they form friendships, support their learning community and acclimate to the campus.



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