As a liberal arts college, giving students the opportunity to go deeper, to enrich their perspectives, is an essential part of the school’s mission.
Admissions team, he is adamant about that viewpoint: “It is a myth, and one that we need to stop using as an excuse.”
“The research is clear,” says St. Louis. “A more diverse educational environment contributes to more engaged students, richer classroom learning, and the potential to acquire an education that has greater depth and rigor.”
Nevertheless, he admits, attracting talented, multicultural high school students to St. Mike’s can be challenging, especially when many other schools are trying to do the same, and often, those schools’ recruiting programs have been focused on diversity longer than St. Mike’s.
MYTH #1: VERMONT IS TOO COLD
Vermont is one of the whitest states in the union. It’s cold, it’s rural, and it’s often said that people of color are simply not interested in living in a place like this. Kimoi Seale ’06, Assistant Director of the Center for Multicultural Affairs & Services and Assistant Dean of Students at St. Mike’s, laughs at this comment. “I came from Barbados. That’s about as different a climate as you can imagine. And yet, not only did I come to Saint Michael’s College as a student, I chose to come back to Vermont to live.” As a former recruiter with the St. Mike’s
So how can a school that is overwhelmingly white demonstrate its commitment to diversity in a way that doesn’t seem disingenuous to prospective students of color and their families? For Seale, back when he was recruiting at high schools in New York and New Jersey, the question was personal. “People wouldn’t ask outright, but you could read it in their expression, ‘How did this guy end up there?’ What I talked to them about were the benefits I experienced. That coming to St. Mike’s challenged me in ways that staying in my comfort zone wouldn’t have. How the school gave me the space
and opportunity to figure out who I was as an individual.” He continues, “I told them that it’s a place where the professors knew me and they cared enough to check on me if I was absent and they pushed me to do my best work.” This is a point that St. Louis stresses, as well. “What we have done well, where we clearly do better compared to our peer and aspirant schools, is in both our retention and graduation rates. We understand that every student has specific needs and whether you are Latino, African American, Asian, Muslim, white, low income, international—whoever you are, we will work hard to see that you have what you need to succeed during your time here. Helping students reach their full potential, as unique individuals, not as cultural groups, is the prime motivation for the Center for Multicultural Student Services.” This approach aligns perfectly with the school’s Edmundite philosophy of respect for the dignity of
every individual. “Hospitality and welcome are characteristics of who we are as Edmundites,” says Fr. Stephen Hornat, Superior General of the Society of Saint Edmund, St. Mike’s alumnus, and founder and former director of the Edmundite Mission Corps, in Selma, Alabama. “But beyond that, we have an obligation to the students we bring here to provide them with as much or as little support as they need.” MYTH #2: FINANCIAL AID IS THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS
Highlighting the genuinely supportive culture that exists at St. Mike’s is a message that resonates and can compel parents and students to choose St. Mike’s; but in an intensely competitive environment where all schools are working to meet their admission requirements, offering a competitive financial aid package is an important arrow in the quiver. Sarah Kelly doesn’t deny the critical role that financial aid plays. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the kind of endowment that would allow