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Campus hosts prospects

Rohan Anand | Friday, March 30, 2007

In its ongoing effort to attract a higher number of incoming students from diverse ethnic backgrounds, the Office of Admissions is hosting a select group of applicants from underrepresented groups for the annual Spring Visitation Weekend, commonly known as “Spring Viz.”

The Admissions office invited 150 high school seniors of Asian, African, Latino and Native American descent to visit from Thursday through Sunday as part of the event.

A program – and recruitment tool – for attracting more underrepresented minority students to Notre Dame, Spring Visitation has been held for almost 20 years and is directed by a team within the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

“We bring in … the best and brightest minority students from all over the country to show them what Notre Dame is all about,” Assistant Director of Admissions Son Nguyen said. “They stay with student hosts, see the dorm life, attend classes and explore all of the various clubs and organizations available on campus.”

In addition to Nguyen, a student-led team of five members – including junior Jesse Carrillo, senior Krystal Hardy, senior Covington Doan, sophomore Jaime Luna and sophomore Kellen Lewis – have helped coordinate the recruitment process, which began in September. The team has been contacting high school seniors with promising academic achievements and encouraging them to take a look at the opportunities Notre Dame has to offer them.

“Of course, we’re known for our Catholic identity, top tier academics and athletics,” Hardy said. “But Spring Viz – rather than show just the academic side of our University – gives these students a roundabout portrayal of the life here.”

This year’s Spring Visitation has brought promising students from across the country. And their backgrounds add an interesting dimension the Admissions committee said could be a positive addition to the student body here.

“Many are … first-generation college students who ordinarily could not have the opportunity to travel to visit Notre Dame on their own,” Carrillo said. “They come from all sorts of socioeconomic, multicultural and religious settings.”

As a result, the Undergraduate Admissions Committee sponsors each trip for the invitees – including transportation from home – to help them get a feel for the University. Typically, two opportunities for Spring Visitation are held each year. The first occurs in late February, which is much smaller and designated primarily for minority students admitted under the University’s non-binding Early Action program.

This weekend’s event not only is much larger but also features many prospects who have not received official acceptance letters to the University yet.

“We merely congratulate them on their academic qualifications in the invitation letters they receive to attend Spring Viz,” Carrillo said.

After arriving on campus Thursday, the prospects attended a brief introduction session and meet their student hosts. They will be greeted today by Dan Saracino, assistant provost for enrollment, to congratulate them on their qualifications within the highly competitive applicant pool for admissions.

Afterwards, Hugh Page, dean of the First Year of Studies, will provide information about the academic environment at Notre Dame. Students will then have the opportunity to attend a faculty-staff luncheon to acquaint themselves with representatives from the academic departments that interest them.

A false impression of diversity?

Weekend activities will also be abundant for the prospects, with the opening of La Alianza’s Latin Expressions today and the Fashion Show from the Black Cultural Arts Council (BCAC) Saturday.

The variety of on-campus events will provide a packed weekend for these prospects. But some have criticized Spring Visitation recently for displaying a false impression of diversity at Notre Dame by hosting these students on a weekend when there simply happens to be cultural events on campus.

In a column that appeared in the Viewpoint section of The Observer Feb. 26, senior Will McAuliffe, an Observer columnist, expressed this view regarding his impressions after leaving a Voices of Faith concert when he was a prospect.

“Once the doors opened, the reality of Notre Dame set back in,” McAuliffe wrote. “Despite the genuine efforts of the administration, this University is not diverse.”

In response to this allegation, the Admissions team – though they acknowledged that multicultural events like Latin Expressions don’t occur every weekend – said they are not using these shows to deceive prospects.

“Rather, they are showcases – not just for our prospects but for our community as a whole,” Carrillo said. “Part of the hosting process is honest, and the students will experience for themselves what Notre Dame is really about – good or bad.”

The undergraduate Admissions committee neither sponsors nor produces these shows, but simply encourages the prospects to attend.

“This weekend is no different from any other weekend,” Hardy said. “We’re aware that the BCAC Fashion Show is not every weekend, just like the Keenan Revue isn’t every weekend, either. And students who apply here are aware that we are a predominantly white institution, but we’re not trying to hide that.”

First impressions

The prospects, who arrived Thursday, said they were impressed by other factors that they hadn’t considered. For Tsz Wong, a senior from Brooklyn, New York, the chance to escape the city was “incredible.”

“The first thing I noticed was the Golden Dome, which wasn’t surrounded by clusters of apartment complexes,” she said. “The campus is so beautiful.”

The opportunity to visit the campus may make Notre Dame a higher contender on the prospect’s list of college choices. Since it is a free ride, some seniors choose to capitalize on this opportunity to learn more about the institution.

“My family and I were so excited about the visitation and now Notre Dame has definitely become one of my top choices,” said Brandi Rodriguez, a senior from San Antonio. “Still, it’s all up to financial aid, but I can’t wait to see what else to explore here.”