CIIE and local African American communities

Maddie Birky

Associate Editor

madelinemb@goshen.edu

This fall, Goshen has had its most diverse first-year class ever, with 40 percent of traditional students identifying as non-white, compared with 15 percent in 2006-2007. Goshen College’s Latino student population, in particular, has skyrocketed. But that was not the only advancement towards growth in minority student enrollment. CIIE is currently working with the African American community in both Elkhart and South Bend to make higher education much more achievable.

Since 2006, Goshen College has dramatically increased minority student enrollment. During the 2015-2016 academic year, 36 percent of traditional undergraduate students were minority or international students, compared with 17.7 percent in 2005-2006.

“Goshen College’s outreach to the African American community is, and was, among many efforts—old and new—to increase our outreach to all aspects of our community to recruit more students as well as to increase support for our college in other ways,” said Richard Aguirre, director of corporate and foundation relations. “Goshen College welcomes support from all those who share our values, mission and vision and our commitment to provide an exemplary Christian liberal arts education.”

This past year, Aguirre said that some students have been frustrated, feeling that the needs of African American students have not been met and that there is a climate on campus that does not fully embrace inclusion and diversity.

“Over the years, African American students also have expressed concerns about their interactions with other students as well as GC employees,” said Aguirre. “We have known about that for some time and the concerns have been taken seriously and have either been addressed or are being addressed. We really do care about all students and take seriously their concerns.”

DaVonne Kramer, coordinator of retention and intercultural student support, has taken steps towards addressing these concerns.

“Her role as Black Student Union adviser is about ensuring that African American students have space to organize and present ideas to the wider campus community,” said Gilberto Perez Jr., senior director of intercultural development and educational partnerships. “Through the CIIE office we offer African American students support by bringing resources to campus for learning and leadership development.”

Last year CIIE partnered with Kingdom Impact Cultural Church, My Hood Needz Me, and Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church for higher education workshops with African American youth. These three partnerships put Goshen College front and center with African American youth and youth pastors.

Perez Jr. is currently working with local African American pastors and other leaders to better understand how Goshen College can make a better connection to the African American community.

“Our effort on the Intercultural team is to collaborate with the African American community and it appears to be on the right track,” said Perez Jr. “The African American pastors are excited about Goshen College and they want more engagement. For example, this Sunday Canaan Baptist is hosting a ‘dollars for scholars’ event and they are telling their youth that the monies are for them to attend Goshen College.”

Prior to relating to the African American pastors, GC’s main contact was having admissions counselors visit high schools in Elkhart. Through CIIE partnerships, they are now entering spaces of worship.

“Our reach into the African American community in Elkhart is about being culturally responsive,” said Perez Jr.

From African American community outreach in places such as Chicago to the Latino community of Goshen, Goshen College has welcomed international and diverse U.S. students from its earliest days.

The $12.5 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. in 2006 provided the resources that allowed Goshen College to offer more financial assistance to Latino students, create a more welcoming intercultural teaching and learning community and to research ways to recruit, retain and graduate more Latino and minority students.

“So this grant specifically was focused on addressing the needs of Elkhart County’s growing Latino population,” said Aguirre. “However, this was not (and is not) a zero-sum game and there was no shift in resources to Latinos and away from other groups. In other words, the increased emphasis on Latino students was not at the expense of any students. Our enrollment statistics confirm that: we continue to actively recruit African American students and to provide them the same type of financial aid available to other students,” said Aguirre.

Aguirre expressed his belief that even though Goshen is doing a lot, GC needs to keep working hard to foster an intercultural teaching and learning community.

“We need to reach across lines of race, ethnicity, economic status, gender and more, and make this a place where all are welcomed and valued,” said Aguirre.

 

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