August 04, 2006

Law school gaining in minority, female enrollment

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- This year's class of first-year law students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale reflects strong gains in minority and female enrollment.

The SIU School of Law Class of 2009 features a diverse class of 124 students that includes 12 percent students of color and 42 percent women, according to Dean Peter C. Alexander. Included in the class are 25 SIUC graduates and five graduates of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Classes begin Aug. 21. Mandatory orientation for first-year students is Thursday and Friday, Aug. 17-18.

"We are very excited for them to start and look forward to having a good year with them," he said.

This is the second consecutive year for strong minority enrollment, Alexander said. Last year's minority class was 16 percent, compared with about 3.5 percent when Alexander arrived in June 2003. The class also includes one of the higher percentages of women, he said.

"After years of relatively small enrollments of women and students of color, we are recruiting at fairs and forums where women and students of color are in attendance and our message seems to be reaching them," Alexander said.

The median Law School Admission Test score is 153, and the undergraduate grade point average of incoming first-year students is 3.46, an increase over last year, he said.

The statistics are impressive on their own, "but particularly impressive in a year when law school admissions nationwide declined," Alexander said. Nationwide, law school admissions in 2005-2006 fell 7 percent; SIUC's law school declined about 1 percent.

A key is getting out on the road and recruiting students. Former admissions director Mike Ruiz, Akami Y. Marik, the law school's admissions field representative, Alexander, and several members of the faculty and senior staff participated in those efforts.

The personal attention each prospective student receives makes a difference, Alexander said. Each faculty member serves as a mentor to about six or seven incoming students. Faculty members this year received those assignments before students paid a second deposit to hold their seat for the incoming class.

"We reached out to them beforehand so they knew they had a faculty mentor," Alexander said. "We have heard from a couple of our incoming students that that was a nice feature about our school; that it shows we really care to assign mentors."

Offering progressive graduate and professional education and enhancing diversity are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.