By Ihsaan Mohamed
The class of 2022 will go down in Lewis & Clark College history. For the first time in 15 years, LC has managed to gain a significant population of students of color. Since the school’s establishment, it has had a mostly homogenous population with a few ethnic sprinkles. Yet just within the past five years the population of students of color has more than doubled, going from 18 to 32 percent. This raises the question of why students of color are choosing to come to LC now more than ever.
Freshman Emma Macon’s grandfather was a LC alumnus and often encouraged her to look into the school. And when her school took her class on a tour of LC, she realized it was the perfect time to scope out the school’s environment.
“I had heard about how white it was on campus,” Macon said, “and then I saw just how white it was (during a tour)”. Although Macon went to a majority white high school, it worried her that she might not be able to find many people of color to build a community with here at LC. She was hesitant to attend a school where she would not be fully comfortable. However, that all changed when she was invited to LC’s Spring 2018 Compass Scholars Weekend.
The Compass Scholar program, formerly known as LEAD (Lead, Explore, Achieve, Discover) has been vital to the increase in population of students of color. The program — founded by Senior Dean of Admissions Adrienne Enriques six years ago originated as a way to encourage more students of color to choose a liberal arts education. Every year LC holds two Compass Scholar weekends: one in the fall and another in the spring. Since the beginning of the program, the number of students of color attending LC has been on a steady rise.
According to Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions Lauren Brown, the Compass Scholars program has managed to find new ways to connect students of color to LC.
“In recent years (we’ve) prioritized getting the Compass scholars connected to current students,” Brown said. Giving them time to bond aided prospective students in establishing a community on campus. This was intended to heighten the chances that those students of color would return, and that proved true this year. From the spring 2018 weekend alone, there was a whopping 54 percent return rate. Yet, finding a community on a campus is not the only factor sought by prospective students.
For Bri Slaughter ’22 there were many factors to consider. She hails from Salt Lake City, Utah and at first had been adamant on finding a college with a huge population of students of color. However, she quickly realized that she had to factor in more than just the diversity of a school.
“By the time I was choosing which school I wanted to go to, it ultimately came down to things like financial aid and the academic rigor,” Slaughter said. “I had to prioritize those.”
These sentiments echo true for many students, and the Compass Scholar program had realized this before as well. That’s why Compass Scholars have a scholarship and mentorship program dedicated to their success in college.
Another major factor for most students were the clubs on campus. The college offers a variety of multicultural clubs, including the Black Student Union, the Asian Student Association, and Gente Latina Unida. The fact that the college is supporting these spaces for students of color to find people with similar experiences and create safe communities with them is important to a lot of students and had a huge impact on their decision to attend the college.
Through clubs and the Compass Scholar program, LC is delivering its intention to diversify the campus both in ethnicity and experience.
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