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Mellon Grant Brings Diverse Programming to Davidson

March 15, 2001
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu

Mellon portrait
Portrait of Andrew W. Mellon.

Davidson College will use a $142,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to promote its students' appreciation for cultural diversity. College officials believe that a campus climate which respects differences in human form and expression will prove more appealing to the students Davidson seeks to enroll.

The grant extends efforts the college has conducted for nearly a decade. The numbers indicate that those efforts, and targeted work by the admissions office, have created some success already. In 1996 there were 67 African American and 33 Hispanic American students, and today there are 99 and 42, respectively. Overall, the student population includes about 12% minority students, and college officials would like to increase that to 15 % in the near future.

Tom Shandley, vice president for student life, said Davidson carefully crafted its proposal to the Mellon Foundation to include both diversity education for majority students and support for minority students. "One of the things students constantly tell us is that we need more diversity here," Shandley said. "We think the initiatives that the Mellon grant facilitates will help us create an atmosphere where students not only of different ethnicities, but of many different political, social, and economic backgrounds believe they can thrive educationally."

Ernest Jeffries, assistant dean of students, led the grant process from its early stages to its successful funding, with help from Shandley and members of the residence life staff.

The two-year Mellon grant, effective in the fall, focuses on a new "diversity program advisor" who will be hired this summer to live among students and coordinate a broad range of efforts to increase their understanding of human differences. The advisor will work through the existing network of resident advisors and hall counselors to offer programs to all students, and will be closely involved with the assistant dean of students to develop programming specifically for minority students.

Davidson created a special orientation session for entering African-American students in 1993, scheduling it for several days prior to regular first year student orientation. The Mellon grant will expand this pre-orientation program to incorporate up to 40 African American and Hispanic-American students, and initiate a "First-Year Bridge Program" of activities for minority students that continue throughout the first year.

A new, mid-year, two-day retreat will be conducted for first-year minority students prior to the start of their second semester. Located at an off-campus location, it will give students an opportunity to discuss their first semester experiences with student life staff and members of the faculty.

A year-end banquet/celebration will culminate and celebrate minority students' first year on campus, and Mellon funds will provide stipends to four minority students for four-week summer experiences in directed research, internships, and travel/study abroad.

The diversity program advisor will also conduct a two-day workshop with Davidson's network of residence hall assistants and first year hall counselors to help them plan diversity training exercises for their halls of students.

Given the influence of faculty on students, the grant also includes workshops to help faculty members prepare to address the learning, cultural, and social needs of minority students.

In addition, a minority scholars and artists series will bring their accomplishments in literature, music, theater, and the visual arts to campus through public readings, performances, and/or exhibits.

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson recently launched "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.

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