posted April 27, 2009

Phelps Scholars Program Recognized as Exemplary Diversity Program

The Hope College Phelps Scholars Program has been recognized by the Association of American Colleges and Universities as an exemplary diversity program in higher education.

Hope College is one of 32 institutions featured in the AAC&U publication "More Reasons for Hope:  Diversity Matters in Higher Education."  Others among the featured honorees include the University of Michigan; Duke University in Durham, N.C.; Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.; and Wheaton College in Norton, Mass.

The Phelps Scholars Program -- an academic/residential program for students interested in race and culture -- is celebrating its 10th anniversary.  Started in the fall of 1999, the program is coordinated through the college's Provost's Office in collaboration with the Office of Student Development and the Admissions Office.  The program's director is Dr. Charles Green, who is a professor of psychology at Hope.

A one-year commitment, the Phelps Scholars Program is available to all incoming students. It was created on the premise that learning is enriched when students of all backgrounds and nationalities have an opportunity to live and learn together in the classroom, the residence hall, and through free activities ranging from concerts and speakers to day-long bus trips. To date, 563 first-year students have taken advantage of this opportunity, creating a large network of Phelps Scholars on campus and around the globe.

Some recent alumni include: Fatu Kamara '04, currently employed at the U.S. State Department, Office of Fraud Preventions Program, where she works with embassies around the world on visa issues; Ben Sanders III '05, a Ph.D. candidate in religious and theological studies at Iliff School of Theology, University of Denver; and Elise Edwards '07, an office manager in the U.S. Embassy Security Office, in Jakarta, Indonesia.  Her next appointment will be in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In "More Reasons for Hope," the Phelps Scholars Program is featured for its ability to create a holistic educational experience for students through a collaboration between student affairs and academic affairs.  It was one of five initiatives recognized in the category, and the only program in the category that involved a residential component.

Phelps Scholars are required to live together in the same residence hall, take two courses on understanding race and culture, and participate in bi-monthly meetings or activities.  There is no financial incentive for students to participate, yet the rewards reported by students are great.

"I love getting to know other people and their cultures by simply living with each other, having fun with each other, and learning with each other," said freshman Diane Hawke of Warrenville, Ill.

"Living in Philadelphia, and the east coast in general, provides constant opportunities to interact with different people and cultures - just like Scott Hall but on a much larger scale," wrote Jacob Kain '05.

Compared to other first-year Hope students, Phelps Scholars report an easier transition to college; a larger number of meaningful relationships with students, faculty, and staff; and greater involvement in co-curricular activities.  The four-year graduation rate of Phelps Scholars exceeds the campus average, and graduation rates for students of color equal or surpass those for white students in the program.  Half of the students who become Phelps Scholars are White American.  The other half of program participants is comprised of American students of color and international students from around the world.

Honoring the late Edgar Beckham and his profound influence on higher education, "More Reasons for Hope" examines the trends in diversity education since an earlier AAC&U monograph published a decade ago called "Reasons for Hope." The monograph features a major address by Edgar Beckham that identifies intellectual, structural, and political challenges that need to be addressed in the next generation of diversity work.

Founded in 1915, the AAC&U is comprised of institutions of higher education dedicated to ensuring that the advantages of a liberal education are available to all students.  Membership, which stands at more than 1,200, includes representatives from all sectors of higher education.

More information about the Phelps Scholars Program is available online at www.hope.edu/phelps.  More information about the Association of American Colleges and Universities is available at www.aacu.org