Black Student Union Office | Photo by Kelsey Allen | The Wright State Guardian
Enrollment numbers at Wright State University show a slight increase in Black student population as organizations aim to sustain this trend and maintain Black student involvement.
According to enrollment numbers from the fall semester of 2021, African-American students made up 9.3% of the 11,469 student body.
For the current fall term, WSU’s Vice President of Enrollment Management Susan Schaurer compared estimates for first time Black student enrollment numbers from 2020 to 2022.
“For 2022, two weeks out, we were at 199 students. And again, those would be first time students, and that was compared to 163 for fall 2021, and 154 at that same time for fall of 2020,” Schaurer said.
Retaining students and providing memorable experiences are the main goals of Black Student Union President Gary Neal Jr. and Vice President Jaelyn Hunt.
“Just consistency, momentum, always providing a safe space, a place to just have fun and grow together and just maintain what we have going on,” Neal said.
Hunt expressed hope that BSU becomes a foundational part of WSU.
“I definitely want BSU to be established as a vital part of this university because I don’t think a lot of people see the need for an org like this,” Hunt said.
Neal explained that a challenge for the organization has been retaining the same level of student engagement at events over the course of the school year. According to Hunt, freshman council leaders will be relied on more to support Black students who are new on campus and want to be involved.
The organization has a roster of events where students can learn together and engage in social interaction, according to Neal, who emphasized the importance of students voicing concerns to administration members, such as President Sue Edwards or Vice President of Inclusive Excellence Dr. Matthew Chaney.
Neal described the dynamic between BSU and WSU administration as healthy and supportive.
Black student organization collaboration
According to the organization’s constitution, BSU serves as the overarching organization for other Black student organizations on campus.
Hunt explained that communication can be difficult to facilitate between other Black organizations on campus due to the different schedules of the organizations, which means that some may not be as active on campus as others; still, BSU makes an effort to spread information on social media.
Vice President of the African American Alumni Society Cynthia Jones graduated from the university in 2005. Jones spoke about how bridging the gap between alumni and current students at WSU could be productive for retaining students at the university and encouraging prospective students.
“It is a concern because when they come to school they need to see people that look like them,” Jones said. “When the students are coming in, you know how they go through in-processing, I think the society should be there.”
Jones also explained a desire for collaboration between organizational leaders and the alumni society so that campus events can be more widely publicized and supported by alumni members.
Another component that can impact enrollment of minority students is peer mentorship. Hunt credited mentors for assistance provided through the transition into the vice presidency of BSU.
“I talk to them for, like, advice or, like, even if I don’t ask they just offer it just because. So definitely wasn’t alone in the process, still not alone in the process,” Hunt said.
Role of faculty
Some departments work together to address Black enrollment; Schaurer mentioned frequent collaboration with Chaney.
“I’ve had lots of conversations with Dr. Chaney about ways in which our offices can coordinate and work together,” Schaurer said.
Current students and alumni can play integral roles in increasing Black student enrollment on campus, according to Schaurer.
“If we can couple alumni and current students in those kinds of initiatives, I think they can go a long way in helping us increase the diversity on our campus,” Schaurer said.