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UCLA

The Faces of Change

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By Jack Feuer, Photos by David Black

Published Jan 1, 2011 8:00 AM


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Ashley Williams, here on work-study duty, is actively involved in efforts to increase African-American representation on campus and at other UC universities.

Yet in 2006, only 100 out of 249 African-American admittees chose to come, less than 2 percent of the incoming freshman class of 4,800. The community demanded answers and UCLA Magazine noted in its October 2006 issue that "the drop in freshman enrollment by underrepresented minorities, particularly African Americans, strikes at the heart of the principle upon which the University of California was founded — to provide access to excellence for a student body that reflects the state's diversity."

There were some obvious external factors contributing to the diminished enrollment over which UCLA had little or no control. In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 209, which eliminated affirmative action — with which, of course, the university had to comply. Also, in the years leading up to 2006, the academic landscape had changed dramatically, with an increase in the competitiveness of admissions, both in terms of astronomic growth in volume and the academic quality of applicants to UCLA. (For the 2011-2012 academic year, UCLA expects to receive approximately 60,000 applications, the most of any school in the country.)

Still, action was necessary. The university went into high gear, ramping up efforts to increase "yield"; i.e., the number of admitted African-American students who actually enroll, with the very active involvement of current black students, student organizations, community organizations and alumni. And the university "became extremely aggressive in communicating with the African-American community generally, and with students and parents in particular, that we truly wanted African Americans at UCLA," recalls Winston Doby '63, M.A. '72, Ed.D. '74, vice chancellor of student affairs emeritus at UCLA.

Acting UCLA Chancellor Norm Abrams created an African American Enrollment Task Force of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community leaders to address the issue and established an internal working group to tackle the problem in consultation with relevant faculty groups. University administrators in the Admissions office, including Montero, Associate Vice Chancellor Thomas Lifka and Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools (UARS) Vu Tran Ed.D. '99, dove into the research surrounding the issue.

UCLA was already deeply involved in academic preparation and other outreach programs, and had been for 30 years, many in partnership with community groups, philanthropic organizations and local schools. A small sample of that long list includes the Bruin Ambassador Program, launched in 2007, that selects, hires and trains more than 40 UCLA undergrads who join with professional staff recruiters to visit more than 300 public and charter high schools in the L.A. region, talking with high school counselors about UCLA admissions and identifying prospective UCLA students.

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Williams takes a study break outside of Royce Hall.

Other outreach efforts include the African American Alumni and Community Task Force, which works with friends and alumni to increase African-American yield consistent with Prop. 209; the Vice Provost Initiative for Pre-College Scholars, known as VIP Scholars, a partnership between UCLA and the Los Angeles and Pasadena school districts to help prepare historically disadvantaged students in grades 9-12 to become competitively eligible for admission to UCLA, and many others.

A key role was the cooperation UCLA received — and continues to receive — from the philanthropic organization California Community Foundation, which established a scholarship fund to support renewable scholarships for African-American freshmen admitted to UCLA. This is something the university was prohibited from doing because of Prop. 209.

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