Weekend events introduce diversity of UChicago to underrepresented students

Minority students accepted into fall graduate programs visit campus

University Communications

Gathered in the community lounge of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs on Thursday, March 13, current students made introductions and welcomed 30 visiting students from underrepresented backgrounds who have been admitted to UChicago graduate programs.

The weekend-long event that kicked off with the mixer at OMSA allowed the admitted students to get to know their potential peers as well as meet each other before making the decision to attend UChicago in the fall. 

In the past several years, the University has been conducting new outreach programs for women and students from diverse backgrounds to enter its graduate and professional programs as well as the ranks of its faculty. 

“We’re trying to show them there’s a community here at Chicago that will enable them to come and not feel as isolated as they might feel at other campuses,” said William McDade, associate professor of anesthesia and critical care and deputy provost for research and minority issues. He stressed that in addition to advancing the University’s central goal of bringing together diverse perspectives in many fields, attracting a diverse group of graduate students helps departments recruit and retain diverse faculty members.

This is the third year that Chinonye “Chi-Chi” Nnakwe, director of graduate diversity recruitment has coordinated such a weekend in order to encourage diverse students to choose UChicago. The event has helped boost the number of students who choose to attend the University, said Nnakwe.

“The purpose for this event is twofold. First, we want the students to build a sense of a cohort, and that’s important for when they actually arrive in the fall if they decide to come,” said Nnakwe. “The second purpose is to positively influence that decision, to show them the best of what University of Chicago has to offer in terms of diversity.”

Camille Reynolds from Detroit, who graduated from the University of Michigan and who has been admitted to a doctoral program in history, said, “I wanted to get a better sense of the culture of diversity on the campus. Usually that’s not something that’s really highlighted.” She said she already accepted Chicago’s offer and that the welcome weekend was uncommon among the programs to which she had applied.

Beginning a graduate program can be stressful for any student, and being a minority in a graduate program can bring its own special set of challenges.

“In different environments, underrepresented students can experience anxieties about stereotypes that potentially harm their academic performance, or have issues encountering bias. It may be implicit, it may not be intentional, but these are things that students encounter,” Nnakwe explained.

Beyond meeting UChicago community members, admitted students also attend the E.E. Just Lecture, which features a distinguished speaker in the sciences who comes from an underrepresented group. This year, Rhonda Dzakpasu, the Clare Boothe Luce assistant professor at Georgetown University, was chosen for her contributions in the field of theoretical and experimental optical physics.

Friday, March 14 wound down with a dinner and keynote address by Cathy Cohen, the David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science and the College, who encouraged the admitted students to choose UChicago.