Invitational welcomes diverse student group
If you've noticed a sudden swelling in the ranks of students on campus lately, you're not imagining things-over 120 prospective high school students are attending the Bowdoin Invitational this weekend. Students from areas all over the country arrived Thursday, November 6 and will be staying on campus until Sunday, November 9.
The Bowdoin Invitational began in the early 1980s with 20 to 25 prospective students as a means of promoting diversity on campus. While Bowdoin has a history of supporting the education of students of color, there was a sudden decline in their enrollment at the time the Invitational was first conceived.
"Bowdoin is committed to diversity," said Erby Mitchell, Assistant Dean of Admission and Director of Multicultural Recruitment.
"To be one of the best colleges, you have to create a culture that is reflective of the world. To do this, you need to encourage discourse about the meaning of respect of different ideas and races. Diversity used to mean just race; now it means diversity in ethnicities, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic backgrounds," he said.
The program has changed slightly over the years, and this year's program will include not only students of color, but also students from different socioeconomic backgrounds and Upward Bound students from Maine. Upward Bound is a federally-funded program designed to help low income, first-generation college students acquire a college education.
The Office of Admissions has found that high school students are significantly more likely to apply to Bowdoin if they visit the school, and about 65 percent of the students that attend the Bowdoin Invitational will apply.
One hundred and twenty-three high school students will be attending in all, with the largest representation (30 students) hailing from California. Dean Mitchell said that it is "unique that Bowdoin is doing something of this magnitude" to recruit a diverse student body, and that "it exceeds much of what [other small liberal arts schools] are doing."
Mitchell said that the Bowdoin Invitational is also unique in that the prospective students stay with various types of college students. With other institutions and programs, the prospective students often stay with college students of similar backgrounds. Jed Wartman, the Assistant Director of Residential Life, has spent the past weeks sending out emails, recruiting Bowdoin students to host the Invitational students. This year, roughly 100 Bowdoin students will have prospective students staying with them.
Recruiting and picking the prospective students for the Invitational is "quite a process," said Mitchell. Bowdoin uses referral agencies, which nominate students for Bowdoin to invite to apply. Mitchell said they tell the agencies Bowdoin is "looking for your best and brightest." In addition, Bowdoin sends out email invitations to apply to students who have shown interest.
This year, admissions received over 420 nominations from teachers and guidance counselors and then about 170 applications. Admissions combs through these applications "as though [the prospective students] were applying for admission to Bowdoin," said Mitchell. "We would like to have everyone, but there is simply not enough space."
The students from the Invitational have mandatory classes Friday and are invited to attend all student activities scheduled for the weekend.
On Saturday, organizers of the Invitational will have chartered buses take the students to Freeport to show that Bowdoin is not so isolated. "You can buy Timberlands in Maine," Mitchell joked.
"The highlight" of the weekend, Mitchell said, will be the faculty-staff dinner with the students Saturday night. "The turnout is incredible," Mitchell said. Throughout the weekend, students will be attending meetings and interviews with the Office of Admissions and deans and going on campus tours.
Next spring, admissions expects around 100 already admitted students to attend a kind of follow-up weekend to this fall's Bowdoin Invitational.