As part of the University of Washington’s (UW) promise to expand college access to more Washingtonians, especially those from systemically minoritized groups, UW created the Multicultural Outreach and Recruitment (MOR) team which is housed in the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMA&D). Since the 1980s, MOR has been committed to identifying, attracting, and recruiting American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Latino, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Southeast Asian and other historically disenfranchised students to the University of Washington.
MOR initiatives are designed to target 9th – 12th grade high school and 2-year college students while creating a welcoming and respectful learning environment that promotes equitable access and opportunity for all students to succeed while studying at the UW. These initiatives occur in four phases from early outreach to matriculated students becoming ambassadors for the program, many of them returning to the same high schools they graduated from. MOR operates in 120 high schools and 12 community colleges across Washington state, in schools with the highest percentage of free or reduced lunch programs. The program does an incredible amount of this important work with just six recruiters and three administrative staff.
The goal of early outreach is to show students in the 9th – 11th grade and their families that higher education, and indeed attending UW is a possibility for them. Outreach is directed to students in this phase by affinity group, and by raising awareness from attending college fairs and high school visits to help foster belonging and cohort building. MOR staff and recruiters plan events to show students they belong at the UW and why they should choose the UW for their education futures. These events help address culturally specific questions about requirements, applications, and acceptance to the university. Students often work with their high school counselors, MOR team members, and other OMA&D college access programs to prepare them for the admissions process to become a future Husky.
In this phase, many students are already aware of the UW and are aware of the support and services available to them when they come to the university. However, students may not have decided yet which universities they want to apply to or attend. The MOR team holds many events to recruit these students and to help them make the UW their top choice. There are events around the state and virtually to deepen their understanding to what it means to study at the UW, and seminars and workshops to help them apply for admissions. Some workshops are designed to break down the UW application into easy-to-follow parts, covering the requirements in detail and the importance of crafting impactful personal statements. All the while, the MOR team continues recruitment through college fairs, high school visits, and answering one-on-one individual questions.
Outreach doesn’t end once an application is submitted. Prospective students still have to say yes to the UW! MOR offers many opportunities for prospective students and their families to really understand if the UW is the right choice for them. The Purple and Gold Experience is for newly admitted students, along with their family to learn about the suite of student success programs that will help them both in and out of the classroom. They interact with current UW students and have opportunities to find out about academic majors, support services and other social and cultural happenings on campus. In 2022, MOR held a Purple and Gold Experience on campus with approximately 350 students and family members, where the program bussed in more than 100 people from central Washington for the day. This was just one of many events and activities on campus and across the state to once again show future Huskies that the UW is a place where they belong.
The experience comes full circle when students who were once participating in MOR programs and workshops become ambassadors and are doing the outreach themselves. Ambassadors are engaged in creative empowerment-based projects to encourage high school and two-year college students to pursue higher education. They develop and assist with programs on campus within identified communities and high schools to present student perspectives, motivational workshops, and information regarding the UW admissions process, financial aid, academic requirements, and University resources. Currently MOR has 17 paid ambassadors assisting with the outreach and recruitment of the next generation of Huskies coming from systemically minoritized groups.
The evidence of the program’s effectiveness is clear. Since the program began in the 1980s, enrollment of identified populations has grown from year to year. “Our students, like everyone else, have gone through a lot the last couple of years. I am constantly impressed by the strength of the students to overcome barrier after barrier to pursue higher education. I am also proud of the MOR staff for their ability to adapt to changing circumstances and constant innovation to meet students in the moment wherever they are in their process,” said MOR Director Jaime Soto.
The MOR team shifted quickly during the pandemic to continue to provide outreach services virtually, finding new and equitable ways to bring the husky experience to prospective students in their homes across the state. The team is excited to transition back to prioritize the in-person experiences both on the UW Seattle campus and in school districts farter from UW campuses. While students and their families far prefer the in-person programing, some virtual options will remain available as well.
The MOR ambassador program has experienced various levels of success and continue to strive to be the very best among peer institutions and comparable programs. It was awarded the 2002 Brotman Diversity Award in recognition of their exemplary advancement of the diversity of the UW community, and in June 2003, Recruitment and Outreach staff members traveled to San Francisco, CA to feature our model program at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE).