Recruiting students from culturally and racially diverse backgrounds is a challenge for small private colleges, especially those located away from major cities and in regions of the country other than the Southeast.

One pair of colleges — The College of Saint Benedict and Saint Johns University — has hit on a strategy that appears very successful. In 2004, CSB/SJU created I-LEAD (Intercultural Leadership, Education and Development) Fellowship Program.

While the goals of the program – attract, retain, and support students currently underrepresented (culturally, geographically, first generation, racial, and socio-economically) on campus — are very similar to those run by scores of private liberal arts colleges, their implementation at CSB/SJU is very different.

I-LEAD Fellows – 15 in 2005, 12 in 2006, and 22 expected this fall – form cohorts. Each cohort engages in team-building activities; meet regularly as a group where they candidly discuss their concerns, challenges, and triumphs with each other and trained faculty mentors; and receive very strong encouragement to fill leadership roles in campus organizations, participate in undergraduate research; and take part in regional, national, and international opportunities for service and leadership. Each receives a renewable $7,500 scholarship and can access stipends to support their research and service initiatives.

To be eligible for the program, graduating high school students must demonstrate leadership, community service involvement, high academic achievement, and commitment to intercultural understanding. The ratio of women to men in the I-LEAD program is 2:1. Most I-LEAD fellows come from richly diverse inner city high schools; ninety-six percent identify themselves as students of color; and several are members of families who have recently immigrated to the United States. Many are the first in their families to attend college, a group the program especially seeks to attract.

As a result, diversity at CSB is expanding more rapidly at other similarly structured and located schools. In 2004, the year prior to enrollment of the first I-LEAD Fellows, CSB reported 75 or a 3.7 percent minority enrollment. By fall 2006, it had grown to 106 students 5.2 percent minority enrollment. Retention among students of diverse background is also up significantly.

This fall CSB/SJU anticipate adding 22 new I-Lead fellows.

A story about I-LEAD recently appeared in On Campus With Women, a publication of the Association of American Colleges & Universities. The article can be found at http://www.aacu.org/ocww/volume36_1/fromwhereisit.cfm?section=2.

For more information about I-LEAD at CSB/SJU, contact: Jody Terhaar, Dean of Students, College of Saint Benedict, 37 South College Avenue, Saint Joseph, MN 56374, 320/363.5601, jterhaar@csbsju.edu. Or contact Michael Hemmesch, director of media relations, 320/363-2595, mhemmesch@csbsju.edu

The College of Saint Benedict is a liberal arts college for women located in Central Minnesota, four miles from partner institution Saint John´s University, a liberal arts college for men. These colleges share a single curriculum and faculty and are nationally known for extensive initiatives in the arts, community service, international education, and undergraduate research. Their 3,900 students participate in a rich and varied array of coeducational social, cultural, and spiritual programs rooted in the Benedictine and Catholic tradition.

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