There’s an enrollment boom happening at O’Neill IUPUI. And the wave of new students joining the O’Neill School looks more like the community in which IUPUI exists. Diversity is on the rise, with underserved populations seeing increases from 2018 to 2019.
The changing demographics are no accident. It’s the result of intentional development from Tamra Wright, the school’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and strategic recruiting efforts by Eugene Pride III, the associate director for enrollment management and diversity.
Together, the duo has channeled their energy and experience into ensuring that O’Neill has a student body that is inclusive, welcoming, and diverse by partnering with key organizations both on- and off-campus.
As the sole recruiter for O’Neill IUPUI’s undergraduate and graduate programs, Pride says he has to be creative when it comes to recruitment collaborations. That includes looking to other colleges for recruitment opportunities.
Pride seeks out students of diverse backgrounds already taking classes just minutes from IUPUI. He recently started a partnership with Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis to speak to their students about what furthering their education after earning their Ivy Tech degrees, and how O’Neill could best serve them.
“I’m doing presentations specifically geared toward these students, where a huge percentage are low-income, first-generation, or diverse,” he says. “We’re using this opportunity to increase transfer students’ diversity. It won’t benefit us this year, but it will have an impact next year.”
That long-term planning is also important when looking at another off-campus opportunity: Indianapolis Public Schools.
“We recognized that Indianapolis Public Schools are in our backyard, yet we’re not seeing many students come from that districts’ schools,” Wright says. “How can we tap into that?”
Pride and Wright worked closely with IUPUI’s Office of Enrollment Management and Undergraduate Admissions, as well as the university’s Upward Bound program, where Wright once served as assistant director. Upward Bound participants receive support services as part of a holistic approach to encourage academic progress and personal development.
“On-campus partnerships are key in reaching kids in IPS and other diverse schools in Indianapolis,” Pride says. “In addition to my visits to these schools, I now train professional staff across campus, as well as our campus ambassadors, to represent our school as a viable option for all declared and undecided majors in high school and at IUPUI,” Pride says. “I train them to speak about O’Neill as an exciting, inclusive environment.”
Wright says taking an innovative approach to partnerships is critical to attracting students. Her work with the IUPUI’s Intergroup Dialogue has opened doors to combine curricula and co-curricular collaborations with three other schools at IUPUI—Engineering and Technology, Social Work, and Liberal Arts—to create a certificate program that is the first of its kind at IUPUI. The certificate program launched in spring 2018 and the first students to earn their certificates graduated the following December.
“Partnering with other schools is not how we’ve traditionally approached diversity,” Wright admits. “But when you’re trying to have a scalable and sustainable impact, you have to work with other schools and units on campus. If schools combine limited resources, they can have maximum impact.”
That impact reaches students who otherwise would never have been exposed to O’Neill’s courses, conversations, and perspectives. The IGD courses help guide conversations between people of different backgrounds, allowing students to develop critical thinking skills, face conflict, communicate across differences, and work through challenging situations.
“We have courses where students can have really meaningful discussions,” Wright adds. “That’s not happening in other classes across campus. This is an opportunity to really move the diversity needle forward in an innovative way.”
Both Wright and Pride are keeping their eyes to the future to find more innovative ways to ensure the O’Neill School’s student population reflects the real world.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve,” Pride says. “We’re constantly evolving in our strategies and approaches but we know to make a lasting impact, we must keep diversity, equity, and inclusion present in everything we do and strive to find creative partnerships that help us fulfill that mission.”