Minority program seeks to increase its presence

Nancy Ngo

Although the Martin Luther King Program has been serving minority students in the College of Liberal Arts for 28 years, the advising office hopes to extend its reach to more students and programs in the next year.
“The current challenge is to let students and departments know what we do,” said Qaisar Abbas, associate director of the program.
University-wide recognition was not a challenge when the MLK program started in 1968. The office was established in response to public pressure from minority students who wanted more academic support services that were culturally sensitive to them.
The MLK program is CLA’s only minority premajor advising office.
Although students have increasingly used the program’s services, such as academic advising and tutoring, more students should be reached, Abbas said. He said he encourages other University offices to refer students to the MLK program.
Such referrals are not made, Abbas said, because the MLK program has not been aggressive in telling the rest of the University about the program’s successes.
Nancy Barcelo, associate vice president for Minority Affairs, said students have told her that there are no clear distinctions among the University’s various academic support services. Many offices offer duplicate or overlapping academic services.
Barcelo said better coordination among diversity programs would allow more students to use the MLK program’s services.
She said representatives of CLA’s advising offices and academic departments have already met to discuss better coordination of advising services.
“The goal is to work together so that we’re not offering duplicate services,” Barcelo said.
A survey of the MLK program’s role and effectiveness from 1990 to 1995 suggested that students who use the program’s special class sections experience improved academic performance.
Abbas said students can sometimes feel more comfortable in the MLK sections because there are more students of color in the classroom.
Sunday Broch, a CLA freshman, said she feels comfortable in the MLK section she is enrolled in for her women’s studies class. She said the friendly environment helps her become more involved in class participation.
“A lot of classrooms I am in, I am the only minority. In this class, I am part of the majority,” Broch said.
The report compared the academic performance of students in MLK sections and students in non-MLK sections. The study shows that students enrolled in the special sections are more likely to pass a course than those in standard sections.
Any student may register for an MLK section of a class. However, students who seek advising with the MLK program have priority over other students when registering for the sections.
Amy Day, a junior majoring in management, enrolled this quarter in an MLK section of a women’s studies course because it was the best fit with her schedule. She said that although she is not a student of color, she has benefited from being in a class where most of the students are minorities.
“I am more conscious of race,” Day said. She said class discussions often deal with questions of race, whereas similar conversations in other classes seldom broach the topic.