By Anne Wolf
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego
|Tony Haymet, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and vice chancellor for marine sciences, UC San Diego
Imagine: it's a week before the magic date when UC admissions decisions are posted online. An anxious high school senior answers her phone and hears Dr. Tony Haymet say, "Congratulations! You've been admitted to UC San Diego."
Haymet, vice chancellor of marine sciences and director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, was one of 180 UC San Diego faculty, staff and administrators -- including Chancellor Marye Anne Fox - who called more than 2,800 students from underrepresented groups this March to let them know they'd been admitted to UCSD.
"It's just a delight to talk to them," Haymet said. "They are so happy to be admitted, and they're just so interesting. They feel about UC the way I do -- proud to be associated with it."
The UC San Diego early calling program, now in its second year, is just one of the many ways that UC campuses strive to boost enrollment among underrepresented students.
For the faculty and administrators who volunteer to make the calls, the program is also a great way to connect on a personal level with students.
Most students are just thrilled to learn they've been admitted, while others have "a million questions," says Haymet. Given students' busy schedules, Haymet often leaves a message "about good news from UC San Diego" on the student's phone asking them to call back.
One student called back saying, "Hey, Tony, great to get your call!" Another student asked Haymet to call back and leave the same message on the answering machine so his parents could hear it.
All UC campuses have activities such as phone calls and campus overnights to encourage students to accept their admissions offer, but the activities usually occur after students receive a written or an electronic notice they have been admitted.
Only UC San Diego calls underrepresented students to give them the good news before they receive their official admit letter. The goal is to get students to attend Admit Day, where they can talk to current first-year students, "the best recruiters on campus," according to Haymet.
"One of our biggest challenges is to encourage more underrepresented students to accept our offer of admission, " said director Mae Brown, who helped develop the program. "Our campus population should truly represent the rich diversity of California."
High-achieving students from underrepresented minority groups are highly sought after by both private and public universities. Students often have competing offers from Stanford, Cal Tech, USC, and Ivy League schools like Harvard.
UC is at a disadvantage because it cannot offer scholarships based on race, which is not the case for many private colleges and universities, Brown says. Getting those students to move from racially diverse areas like Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay Area to La Jolla also has proved challenging.
The early calling program is one of many efforts to overcome these obstacles by making a personal connection with admitted students.
"We saw very positive results last year," Brown said. Typically about 16.5 percent of underrepresented students choose to attend UC San Diego, yet 24 percent of those who were called last year decided to enroll.
The program has also proved to be very popular with faculty, staff and administrators, many of whom told Brown that they were moved by the experience. This year, as word got out, about 50 more people volunteered to make calls.
In light of recent racially offensive events on campus, reaching out to underrepresented students was particularly important this year, Brown said. More than ever, University officials want to get the word out that UC San Diego welcomes a diverse student body and will do whatever it takes to create a climate that is respectful of all its students, she said.
Yet few students asked about the recent events during their admissions call. When they did, callers spoke with the students about the incidents, shared what UC San Diego is doing in response, and then invited the students to come to help change the campus, Brown said.
On May 1, Brown will know just how many students accepted UC San Diego's offer.
Anne Wolf is systemwide coordinator in Internal Communications at UC Office of the President.