More than 100 people of color working in admission gathered for a special reception at EMA’s 2017 Annual Conference in New Orleans. The event marked the first—though not the last—reception of its kind at EMA.
We are grateful for the leadership of Donnie Smith, associate director for enrollment for middle school, Brooklyn Friends School (NY); Yocelin Gonzalez, director of community partnerships, The Meadowbrook School (MA); and Kemi T. Nonez, director of diversity & multicultural affairs, Durham Academy (NC), for not only getting this activity off the ground but also for agreeing to help guide EMA’s longer-term efforts to support professionals of color.
Prior to the conference, 128 people of color responded to a survey designed to collect information about their jobs and experience. When asked to pick the top three challenges they face as admission professionals of color in the independent school community, respondents indicated the following as their primary challenges: recruiting and retaining professionals of color (47%), recruiting and retaining students of color (35%), feeling the pressure of the model minority (33%), keeping up morale (26%), and the need for mentorship (23%).
Volunteer committee members delivered an interactive workshop session during the conference to dive into these challenges more deeply—to identify what is currently being done well in these areas, areas of growth, and possible action steps to take. In terms of recruiting and retaining professionals, the greatest challenge identified, workshop participants suggested that schools expand outside the independent school world to recruit faculty and staff of color and creatively tap other networks like the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA) and the many African-American Greek and fraternal organizations. They also suggested that schools need to move beyond the “usual” lists of colleges and universities that are “acceptable” on one’s resume.
In thinking about retaining professionals of color in admission, workshop participants suggested a number of actions to take, including providing more training for young people coming into the profession, building cultural competency into people’s contracts, conducting implicit bias training for those reading applications and conducting interviews, and creating affinity space at the EMA Annual Conference for people of color.
Getting to work immediately after the conference, Donnie, Yocelin, and Kemi helped to launch a small pilot mentorship initiative, pairing experienced professionals of color with those new to the profession. During the 2017-18 academic year, there have been nine pairs of mentors and mentees meeting regularly, and it is hoped that this number will increase in the next year.
EMA looks forward to working with this volunteer group and others to deliver opportunities for sustained networking among people of color in admissions and to explore how we might help support the professional needs of people of color through additional programming and/or collaboration with other organizations already doing important work in this area.