Recruiting reflects changing times, changing mission

Thursday, December 6, 2007

St. Cloud State recruiting efforts have branched out in innovative ways to attract and welcome more students representing a variety of multicultural groups.

Adrece Thighman and Martha Noyola

Adrece Thighman-Nabe, left, associate director of admissions for outreach, and Martha Noyola, assistant director of student of color outreach, are key members of St. Cloud State's recruiting team.

New marketing efforts include multilingual advertising in Twin Cities newspapers and hiring and promoting admissions staff members who better represent Minnesota’s increasingly diverse population. Translated ads have been placed in publications read by students and their parents whose first language is Spanish or Hmong, and recruiting publications have been printed in Spanish, Hmong and Somali. In addition, of the 12 full-time Office of Admissions staffers, two are currently persons of color. The office is in the process of replacing its Hmong-American recruiter, Tzong Chang ’05, who recently left to take a similar position at another university.

Why the changes? The pragmatic answer is that universities like St. Cloud State won’t be able to sustain their enrollment numbers without attracting more students of color, according to Mahmoud Saffari, associate vice president for enrollment management. The number of high school graduates in Minnesota is expected to decline by about 10 percent by 2012, according to the state’s Department of Education. And that pool of prospective students is changing as well as shrinking, with fewer Caucasians in the mix.

Alnwick Castle

Prince Charles, wearing the uniform of the Queen's Own Yeomanry, greets St. Cloud State students during his September visit to Alnwick Castle, home of the university's Center for British Studies. The heir to the British throne and Royal Honorary Colonel met students at the 11th century castle. The majestic branch campus is also a tourist attraction, frequent location for films such as the first Harry Potter movie, and home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. St. Cloud State has had a study abroad program in England since 1981.

But St. Cloud State is recruiting for diversity for reasons other than overcoming challenging demographic changes, administrators say. "We benefit from the diversity of our campus," said President Earl H. Potter III, who is interested not only in welcoming people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, but in ensuring that they have the support they need to succeed academically and socially on campus.

"I am convinced that we are recruiting to increase our institution’s diversity because of what it brings to the experiences of faculty, staff and students on our campus," said Saffari.

Admission staffers Adrece Thighman-Nabe ’02 ’07 and Martha Noyola are crucial to competing for the diverse pool of Minnesota college-bound students. They are particularly important in convincing African-American, Latino/Latina, and Hmong students and their parents that St. Cloud State is the best place for them to pursue their higher education. Dozens of other colleges and universities are recruiting for the same groups of prospective students.

"A person of color recruiting who has succeeded at the university he or she is recruiting for can be more effective in connecting with others from communities of color," said Thighman-Nabe, who recently was promoted to the position of associate director of admissions for outreach.

Thighman-Nabe, who has been an admissions staff member for five years, is part of a team that successfully increased the number of new students of color in 2006 by 26 percent and in 2007 by almost 30 percent above 2006.

In addition to more than 1,000 international students from 80 countries, St. Cloud State’s 16,800 student population now includes 1,144 domestic students of color.

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