College continues to work for diversity
A walk around campus clearly demonstrates two things: first,
that Bowdoin has improved its degree of diversity significantly in recent
years, and second, the College still has a long way to go.
Every year, Bowdoin's new students come from increasingly
different regions, ethnicities, and traditions. While there remains a
good deal of room for further improvement, efforts to recruit students
of color have been successful of late.
"I'm really proud of the College; I've seen so much
progress over nine years," said Fumio Sugihara, Assistant Dean of
Admissions and Director of Recruitment for Students of Color. "The
flavor and feel of the campus are very different from that of the past."
Sugihara graduated from Bowdoin in 1996, and began working
in the admissions office shortly thereafter. "I think that now, students
believe in diversity. We're making strides."
The College runs several programs geared toward recruiting
students of varied backgrounds. "We have two visitation programs
in the fall, called Bowdoin Invitationals," Dean of Admissions Jim
Miller said. "We invite students of color from all over the country
and bring them on campus for a few days."
In addition to the Invitationals, the College runs a spring
program for students who have applied to Bowdoin. "The Bowdoin Experience
is an event where we bring in a lot of students who we really want to
come here," Miller said.
The dean indicated that programs of this sort have aided
the admissions office in drawing students to Bowdoin and increasing the
College's diversity. "They have worked very well," he said.
"I think it's important that people have a chance to see this place
and interact with our students and faculty."
Miller also said that the College's diversity-enhancing
efforts are revised frequently. "We meet every year to think about
the best way to reach students of color, and all students," he said.
"It is always on the forefront to build a student body of diversity
Clearly, these efforts are making a difference. The Class
of 2005 was the most diverse in Bowdoin's history, a title usually usurped
each year by subsequent classes.
Additionally, according to statistics provided by Registrar
Christine Brooks Cote, students of color remain at Bowdoin at rates comparable
to the general student body. The overall sophomore retention rate, between
the years of 1996-2003, varied from 92 to 96 percent. For students of
color, the rate was between 88 and 100 percent.
Cote said that another means of measuring the College's
retention of students is its six-year graduation rate, which indicates
the percentage of entering students that finish within six years. For
the 1994-1998 period, Bowdoin's overall six-year rate was between 88 and
91 percent; for students of color, it was between 79 and 96 percent.
"There is really no discernible difference," said
Craig Bradley, Dean of Student Affairs. "The retention rates are
just about the same."
"In some years, they are higher for students of color,
and in some they are lower," Cote said. "They balance out."
Sugihara said that the students of color currently on campus
are an important indication of Bowdoin's progress. "In terms of enthusiasm
and recognition of diversity's importance, it's there," Sugihara
said. "But we're still working on it. We have to struggle to come
to an understanding of it, and our discussion still needs to be broadened."
With the yearly evaluations, changes and different ideas
about the College's diversity efforts emerge. Miller indicated that, in
future years, he wants to use a relatively untapped resource to further
improve the student body's composition: "Bowdoin has very enthusiastic
alumni," he said. "I believe very much that we need to engage
our graduates more heavily in the recruitment cycle.
"We need to get more national as an institution, and,
to an extent, to look more internationally," he added. "We don't
have enough staff and resources to reach out across the country, and we
need the alums for that."
The recruitment events mentioned above will be utilized
again in the 2001-2002 school year, with a few adjustments. According
to Sugihara, some logistical changes have been made to the fall Invitational
program. "In light of the recent tragedy, we've modified the October
[session]," he said. "We won't be flying in students in October;
we'll be using buses and trains in the New England and Mid-Atlantic areas."
"We're still planning the Bowdoin Experience [as normal] for the spring," he added.