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Mooney kicks off SMC diversity conference

Maggie Dunn | Friday, March 2, 2007

College President Carol Ann Mooney helped kick off the Student Diversity Board’s (SDB) second annual Diverse Students’ Leadership Conference (DSLC) Thursday night with an address outlining her vision for diversity at Saint Mary’s and the challenges students will have to face before it becomes a reality.

“When I became president three years ago,” Mooney said, “I knew that diversity was one of the areas I wanted to address immediately.”

She said she wanted to tackle the theme for four basic reasons, including the fact that “diversity is absolutely necessary to the academic excellence which Saint Mary’s is committed to.”

Mooney said diversity is academically important because it gives way to a variety of viewpoints in the classroom and everyday discussions, “and that variety helps each of us grow to a better understanding of ourselves and of our world.”

Her second reason for trying to lead Saint Mary’s in the direction of ethnic diversity, she said, is that it’s the right thing to do.

“Saint Mary’s as a Catholic institution is committed to social justice,” she said, and in a country that has a history of inequality and repression, “one of the most effective ways to change that is through education.”

On a pragmatic level, Mooney said U.S. demographics are changing at an incredible pace. Not long from now, she said, the percentage of Caucasian students graduating from high school in all areas of the country will be the minority, as other ethnicities become increasingly active in the educational and cultural arenas.

“If Saint Mary’s is not already serving a large spectrum of the population, we will be left in the dust,” she said.

In order to get Saint Mary’s closer to its goal of ethnic integration throughout the College, Mooney said the College adopted a new hiring policy last year.

The policy’s ultimate goal is to create a diverse pool of qualified job applicants. A search committee is appointed the task of finding these diverse candidates and documenting its recruiting efforts.

Mooney said the College is searching for a coordinator for multicultural recruitment, whose job “will be the coordination of our various efforts, bringing greater diversity to our student body, making sure we are working as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

In line with Mooney’s goals for diversity on campus, the Board of Trustees met last week and gave the College approval to move forward with its attempt to become a Posse Partner school.

She said the Posse Partner foundation, which was founded in 1989, recruits students from inner city public high schools who exhibit great leadership skills.

Out of thousands of students, the foundation uses a dynamic assessment process to determine the top 20 “leaders.” The partner school and foundation then collaborate to select 10 students to attend as a group, or a “posse,” to one of the partner schools. Mooney said the high schools these students come from have graduation rates above 90 percent.

“It would be yet another effort to help advance the diversity at Saint Mary’s and a culture that recognizes how important and valuable every member in this community is, the multiple contributions that everyone has to make to the education of everyone else,” she said.