Founded in 1968 as a direct response to the racial justice crises of that year, the Community Scholars Program led Georgetown’s efforts to promote social justice by enrolling a more racially and socioeconomically diverse student body. Today, the Community Scholars Program is housed in the university’s Center for Multicultural Equity and Access (CMEA) and has evolved into a nationally-recognized program that supports the success of a broad range of students from communities that have historically been denied access to higher education.
This exhibit offers the opportunity to reflect on aspects of our history that have led the university community to this celebratory moment.
Page 1 of 2-page Letter from Dr. Roger L. Slakey, Assistant Professor, English Department, to Dean Ann Douglas, Nursing School
As winds driven by Civil Rights activism blew in the U.S. in the early 1960’s, G.U. faculty volunteered to teach Washington D.C. public school students in summers in a program mounted at the University. This was an effort to supplement the students’ preparation for college-level work. This letter shows faculty proposing that Georgetown consider soliciting applicants from the District high school population with whom the faculty were working, looking to admit promising candidates.
The University’s college prep work among D.C. high school students continued for many years and became an Upward Bound Program by the end of the 60’s as federal dollars started to underwrite these sorts of programs. Later, the University would lose the Upward Bound Program, and would struggle to secure a series of private benefactors for this outreach into the D.C. public schools. The purpose has remained delivering supplemental academic instruction to students to achieve college admission. These efforts were managed by CMEA and continue in present time.
THE PROGRAM BEGINS
Press Release, Georgetown University News Service
The Community Scholars Program began in fall 1968, announced in this press release. The program started with internal commitments of (1) University deans to direct 20% of undergraduate financial aid resources to underwrite the cost of attendance, (2) Undergraduate Admissions to seek talented applicants among D.C. public high school students, and (3) interested G.U. faculty to contribute financial, academic and counseling support for these “risk” students.
NAMING THE PROGRAM
Report to the Academic Vice President Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald from Michael Beaudoin, Chairman, Special Scholars Program
On page 2 of this Report comes the recommendation to change the name to “Community Scholars” program, to capture “…the reciprocal relationship between the District of Columbia and Georgetown University communities.”
The author of the report, Michael Beaudoin, notes the collaboration of Drs. Reno and Fort (English Department) and George Deacon [Charles Deacon], Undergraduate Admissions, in drafting the report.
Later in the Report there is a recommendation that “a competent qualified black person on a full or part-time basis, should immediately be sought to direct the black scholarship program….” This first director would be Dr. Roy Cogdell.
THE PROGRAM’S PURPOSE
First Draft of “Basic Philosophy of G.U.’s Community Scholars Program,” Dr. Monika Hellwig
Faculty and Administrators struggle to take a lofty purpose—see highlighted text—and turn it into a (practical, concrete) program with focused attention on recruiting applicants for the program, how to prepare and support admitted students, how to anticipate the barriers to success and to mitigate those barriers.
EARLY TENSIONS—WHO TO ADMIT?
Two memos to Dr. Roy Cogdell, Director of the Community Scholars Program, following an Admissions Meeting discussion, one from the Dean of the Graduate School, and the second from an Undergraduate Admissions officer
A debate as to whether the University’s commitment should be local—to the Washington, D. C. community within which the University is located—or national , to the underserved minority population of the nation, became a structural tension within the Community Scholars Program almost from inception. The Office of Undergraduate Admissions, charged with the recruitment and admission of talented, promising minority candidates, brought its professional lens to the project and argued strenuously for a national reach. Faculty who had volunteered time and passion from early days to launch the program voiced hesitations about moving away from the original focus.
WHAT KIND OF STUDENT?
Report on the Community Scholars Program, submitted to the Academic Vice President Rev. Edmund G. Ryan, S.J., by Dr. Roy T. Cogdell
Dr. Cogdell spells out the kind of student the program should serve. He is careful to affirm that Georgetown should be seeking “the best black students” who are “willing to work.” He brackets as secondary the question of ability to pay.
ONE STUDENT’S VOICE
The Record, A Georgetown University Faculty/Staff Publication
In a write up of a Black History Month panel presentation, Gail Gillis (COL’75) narrates her experience as a Community Scholar matriculating in 1971. She was in the third class to be admitted, and she embraced the opportunity with gusto.
I wanted to belong to the Black Student Alliance but don’t tell me I can’t get on the Student Council. And don’t tell me because I’m on some academic council that one black person, me, has to change everything… .You had to hold on to your identity, but you don’t want to lose a beautiful experience---there was too much here for me to ignore it.
Pamphlet, “The Community Scholars Program”
This excerpt notes that academic support until the early 80’s consisted of a summer program of pre-college preparation in writing and math skills. The curriculum is now reconceived to see the summer as a “first step” in analytical reading and writing which continues through the fall semester. Further, course selections and academic support in other key core requirements are built into the fall semester. Academic support for Community Scholars is revised to consider the demands of the entire first year of college learning, and to build in selective resources where needed.
More recent changes in curriculum (over five years now) have students taking a regular, credit-bearing summer school course in the second five-week session, and the (exclusive) Community Scholars English course which begins in summer and continues for the length of the fall semester, earning the student six credits due to the intensity and length of this analytical reading and writing course.
Georgetown University CMSA Quarterly
By 1988, the Center for Minority Student Affairs was a well-established office, and was responsible for administering the Community Scholars Program and offering academic and personal counseling to students of color at the University. In addition, CMSA was running a variety of projects in the D.C. school system, promoting college preparedness, engaging in summer youth employment, running the After Kids Program and Georgetown Amateur Scientists Program. CMSA would be renamed CMEA first denoting Center for Minority Education Affairs, then changed yet again to the current Center for Multicultural Equity and Access.
GRADUATION RATES STUDY
A Review of the Community Scholars Program: Graduation Rates Since 1982
This study calculated an 80% graduation rate at six years from matriculation for classes entering from 1982 to the time of the study. In a study at six years of the graduation rate for the Classes of 2012 through 2016, the graduation rate is calculated at 92%.
By 1999, the CMEA argues to support a socio-economic foundation for the program, de-emphasizing minority status.
The program has always been as much about economic diversity as about racial diversity… . Students from families with lower incomes tend to score lower on the SAT, are less likely to attend private or public schools in affluent neighborhoods, have fewer resources for navigating the college-admissions process… . These are the students who would most likely be lost to selective private schools without a concerted effort such as the Community Scholars Program. Georgetown University is uniquely qualified to identify and nurture such students who in turn bring a valuable perspective to campuses on which privilege is greatly over-represented. For Georgetown, the Community Scholars Program fulfills the additional purpose of manifesting the goals and values of a Jesuit and Catholic education in bringing a small measure of social justice to our own student body. ---Page 2 of Executive Summary.
MORE AND MORE DIVERSE
Dinner Invitation to Latino Students
By 2000, the ethnic diversity of the undergraduate student body in general and the Community Scholars Program itself, had seen an explosion in “all directions.” Dennis Williams noted in Georgetown Magazine, Winter 2000, there was an historic shift for the Community Scholars Program. Whereas the program at inception from the early 70’s “focused solely on bringing African-American students to the Hilltop,” by the late 80’s through the 90’s the Program was admitting “a wide variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds--Latino, Asian American, African American, Native American and others.” The program was finding extraordinary students from inner city to rural settings, from all over the country. For a number of years, the College Dean’s Office coordinated with Latino/a Community Scholars to cook dinner in a student apartment kitchen, shopping for the tortillas and chilies in a local Latino grocery store in Northern Virginia. All first-year Latino students would be invited so that they might meet each other, forging connections that might mitigate homesickness for those who had come to the Hilltop from the far west and Texas.
THE WHAT AND THE SO WHAT
Essay assignment, the Community Scholars English Class
The last assignment of the summer English class, for at least 30 years, has been based on philosophical readings from Plato (The Crito), and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Letter from the Birmingham Jail) and occasional third writers. Core requirements in philosophy are markers of Jesuit education, and Community Scholars get their first taste with Socrates drinking hemlock rather than defying the state, and Dr. King resisting the power of the state on grounds of laws whose source transcends the state.
Dr. Leona Fisher distilled the essence of a good essay into two parts: the What and the So What, a mantra taken up by the English faculty teaching Community Scholars down through the years. Students search for their thesis (the What) and must figure out why their thesis matters (the So What). Through CARING about what they argue, students find their passion and thus their voice as writers.
THE PROGRAM NOW
Graphic display of data on the Class of 2022
In current time the diversity and national scope of the Community Scholars are given graphic display. The program has taken a leap in coordinating with the Regents Science Scholars Program which is doubling the number of students each year. The Regents Science Scholars Program is dedicated to supporting first generation to college students’ retention and success in STEM subjects.
To read more about this new initiative check
https://www.georgetown.edu/regents-science-scholars-program. The Community Scholars Program, with its deep history of success in supporting students from admissions to graduation, is taking on new challenges in the students it serves.
Curated by Anne Sullivan, Former Senior Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Georgetown University