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July 2012

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Effective Outreach to Underrepresented Minorities

Connecting with the next generation of minority talent means reaching out to students early, meeting them where they are, and tapping current students and alumni to provide a credible message, representatives of successful educational programs for minorities say.

“No. 1 is the relationships. When students are exposed to a college or a field, that affinity lasts all the way to college. What they want will be limited to what they’re exposed to,” said Craig Robinson, national director of KIPP through College, which supports graduates of KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter schools for children in underserved communities.

Danielle Andrews-LovellThe panel, moderated by Jett Pihakis of Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), featured Robinson, Danielle Andrews-Lovell of the Ron Brown Scholar Program, and Ric Ramsey of the LEAD (Leadership Education and Development) program. They offered numerous ideas and strategies for business schools to connect with and engage high-potential underrepresented minorities at GMAC’s Annual Conference recently in Chicago. Key takeaways:

Start early
. “If you can get them at 8 years old, I don’t think that’s too young. Show them what that degree looks like in a practical way,” said Danielle Andrews-Lovell, a 2002 Ron Brown Scholar who now serves as the external engagement director for the minority scholarship and leadership development program. Lots of kids are already on your campus for summer youth programs, Ramsey added. “What if you dispatch MBAs with Koosh balls? Why can’t you talk to those soccer kids?”

Tap your students and alumni
for not only their personal connections to students, but also the credibility they have. When LEAD, a national program dedicated to encouraging top minority high school students to pursue business, asked participants how they heard about the program, they said they heard about it from friends and not the LEAD director, Ramsey said. “Who do they trust? Their friends in the virtual world.”

Use technology
to reach students where they are, but back that up with personal contact. “Facebook and Twitter are conversation tools to engage them, so they feel you are their friend,” but follow up with a phone call, Andrews-Lovell said. When she tries to builds relationships with students, “the fact that I spoke to them makes a difference.”

Work with partners
to make inroads into new communities. LEAD partnered with the Native American Finance Officers Association to recruit Native American students, and Ramsey finds that hosting receptions for affinity groups is also effective. A student who won’t show up for a reception for your program might show up for one you host for his affinity group, he said, “and if you put your senior people in the room you can reach them.”

Building the pipeline is hard work, but success breeds success as minority students provide a network of support for other minority students. KIPP tracks its alumni college success, and when KIPP students look at college, they look at colleges with a high success rate for other KIPP alumni, Robinson said. “Students want to be in places where they feel comfortable.” 

GMAC will hold a free 30-minute webinar, Diversity by the Numbers: Data for Recruiting U.S. Minorities, at 11:30 am EDT/8:30 am PDT, Thursday, August 2. Registration is open to professionals at schools that use the GMAT exam.

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