With most forms of affirmative action in higher education under siege, building a truly diverse student body depends more and more on recruitment. For many colleges and universities, this means doing outreach in urban schools.
But HGSE master's candidate Canh Oxelson knows that the best places to recruit are not always classrooms, but can be neighborhood basketball courts, the churches in your community, and even the house down the street.
As an admissions officer with the University of California from 1998 to 2000, Oxelson never jumped on a plane to attend a recruitment session across the country. Instead, he lived and worked in Oakland, California meeting his neighbors' kids and encouraging them to apply to college, specifically to nearby U.C. Santa Cruz.
In this way, Oxelson gained credibility in the eyes of the students.
"These were kids from our neighborhood, kids who lived next door to me, and kids I would see in church," says Oxelson. "I even played in the same recreational basketball league as their parents. Because of my everyday interaction with them, it was much easier to build a personal relationship with them and their families. In the end, that may have made all the difference, because for many of these families, sending a child off to college is an issue of trust. 'Here's this admissions representative telling me that going all the way to this university is going to help my child.' That's a huge leap of faith for a lot of families, so building that relationship within our community was an incredibly important thing."
Looking to the Future
Oxelson hasn't decided yet what path he will follow after graduation from HGSE. One possibility: to head back to those neighborhood basketball courts, churches, and houses to continue his work reaching out to recruit urban young people, this time for the new University of California at Merced campus, which is scheduled to open in 2004.
HGSE News, Harvard Graduate School of Education