Deirdre Cobb-Roberts, a professor in USF’s College of Education, is part of the current calling campaign and also participated in a similar campaign last summer focused on Black admitted students. One of her more memorable conversations took place after a student who ultimately ended up enrolling at USF handed the phone to his mother. She said her son had done very well in high school, but this was the first phone call they received from an institution saying they valued his academic excellence.
Faculty, administrators, and staff at the University of South Florida have been reaching out to admitted students from underrepresented communities over the last few weeks to answer questions and address concerns they may have as they finalise their college decisions. The outreach is being done by phone, which is a rarely used method these days, allowing for real dialogues with children and families who are often pleasantly pleased to receive the calls.
It follows last year’s more targeted campaign coordinated by USF’s Office of Admissions and members of the Black community. It resulted from an initiative funded by a grant through Helios Education Foundation in 2020 to develop new policies, practices and programs to improve Black student access and success. The initial campaign contributed to an overall 16 percent increase in Black enrollment and a 78 percent increase in Black first-time-in-college student enrollment for fall 2021.
“She said that really meant the world to her,” Cobb-Roberts said. “The students and families appreciated the fact that the institution had taken the time to identify faculty and staff from the same racial or ethnic group to engage in phone calls and perhaps be able to answer some of the more nuanced questions. I believe this assured them that USF was invested in them.” This spring’s campaign is focused broadly on underrepresented populations, including Black and Hispanic students who have been admitted to USF’s first-year class of 2022 but not yet enrolled. About 200 faculty, administrators and staff have been calling approximately 4,000 students since early March.
Callers this spring are using a Spanish-language script developed by Roberto Jiménez Arroyo, an instructor in the Department of World Languages and a member of the newly formed USF Alianza Latina Faculty & Staff Association. The script enables callers to engage more effectively with Spanish-speaking families.
The goal is for this spring’s campaign to drive enrollment growth across diverse student groups. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating underrepresented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher-income students. “It was critical for us to build on the pilot program to make this campaign even more inclusive,” said Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, USF’s interim vice president for institutional equity and senior advisor to the president and provost for diversity and inclusion. “There’s an incredible story that we can share with Black and Latino, Latina and Latinx students about how their enrollment at USF will set them on a path to success.”