Looking back at MVP weekends

Down at the Admissions Office, preparations are already in progress for the publicized April pre-frosh weekends. These two weekends aren’t the only times when legions of high school seniors descend upon quiet Williamstown, however. For a decade now, Admissions has been sponsoring Multicultural Visitation Program (MVP) weekends, one each in October and November. Although smaller in scale than the impending April pre-frosh weekends, they play a crucial role in creating a diverse student body.

Founded in 1992, the MVP is still in its developmental stages. Now spearheaded by Gina Coleman ’90, associate director of admissions, and Jenise Holloway ’98, assistant director of admissions, the programs’ main objective is to attract the brightest minority students to Williams College, which, according to Coleman, “does not sell on paper to a lot of students.” Invited specifically to one of the two fall weekends are students of African-American, Latino/a, Native American and mixed racial heritage and, for the first time, Asian-American students, all of whom have been targeted for outstanding achievement through the College Board search.

Once contacted, the students are brought to campus, transportation costs paid by the College and placed with hosts of any and all ethnic backgrounds by coordinator Chris Sewell ’05. Typically, hosts are minority students whose matriculations to Williams are direct products of the visitation programs. However, this past fall, Sewell made a conscious effort to contact more majority hosts in an attempt to extend the sometimes-exclusive programs to the rest of the community. These weekends are designed to give prospective students an honest look at the Williams campus and community. As the fall recruiting period is only three months long, the visitation weekends are almost the only times to present the College to minority students.

According to projected statistics acquired from the dean of admission at Boston College, 111,510 African-Americans graduating from high school in 2002 will attend one of the nation’s 2,200 four-year colleges. The Williams class of 2005 has 43 African-American students, statistically much more than what might be expected in such a small school. The MVP plays a substantial role in maintaining and improving campus diversity.

In past years, Williams had little trouble attracting Asian-American students to the College. However, this year only 135,799 Asian-American students are projected to graduate in the high school class of 2002 and 59,479, or 60 percent of those students are projected to attend four-year colleges. Thus, Asian-American students will now be invited and encouraged to participate in Williams’ MVP.

Needless to say, competition from the Ivy League and other top tier institutions for the best students is fierce. Unlike the majority of its competitors, the College chooses not to produce a “multicultural piece” to be distributed in print exclusively to prospective minority students. However, the MVP, in conjunction with active recruiting by members of the admission team, have produced noteworthy results. 86 percent of the minority students in the class of 2005 participated in the visitation programs. Moreover, the fall visitation weekends of 2001 attracted 206 prospective students, doubling last fall’s attendance record.

The programs are a largely student-powered endeavor, and, “the enthusiasm of the students for the programs is imperative,” said Holloway. Kisha Watts ’02 is a product of the programs and continues to work to improve them. “Overall, this program and others like it are beneficial to the community as a whole, and introduces students to new opportunities,” said Watts.

The MVP coordinators are proud of their efforts. “We feel that we are doing the right thing to capture the very few African-American, Latino/a, and Asian-American students out there,” said Coleman. Kisha Watts suggests that, “one improvement for this program is probably educating and informing people why these programs exist. I think that many people create thoughts and opinions about issues that they have no factual knowledge about, which creates tension when these students come to visit.” Students interested in helping out can contact Sewell, and first -years can sign up at an entry snacks coming soon to host a prospective student during the previews weekend in April.