UVM Continues to Diversify Student Body with Partnership Programs

Three years ago, UVM began a partnership with Christopher Columbus high school in the Bronx.

The aim of this program was to build diversity on UVM’s mostly white campus and to encourage Columbus seniors to consider colleges outside the New York City metropolitan area.

The partnership has been very successful, and today 35 graduates of Columbus high school attend UVM, making it the biggest feeder school outside of Vermont.

This unique approach to diversifying UVM has gained national attention because of the process by which students are recruited.

UVM sends faculty members to Columbus to work with the students on developing their applications.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the partnership is that UVM works with all the students, not just the seniors.

They work with the freshmen in order to give advice and guidance on necessary and important courses and how to attain financial aid, so that when they apply, they will be able to compete with other applicants from more affluent areas and high schools.

“In their freshman year, what we do is focus on what these kids ought to be doing in high school – what kinds of courses they should be taking, especially encouraging them to take AP courses,” says Don Honeman, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid.

This long-term guidance has been integral to the program. Another aspect of the partnership that has helped is the donation of 180 New York-Burlington plane tickets every year by the new budget airline, Jet Blue. This arrangement was made possible by UVM alum, Alex Wilcox, who is vice president for business development at Jet Blue.

The biggest advocates for partnership are the students who have ended up here at UVM, many of whom have taken an active role in the program. “UVM students who graduated from Columbus are going back to the high school and talking to the students about what their experience has been like here,” says Mr. Honeman.

Although almost all of the students who have matriculated at UVM through the partnership are African American or Latino, the program doesn’t target minority students and this year, a white student who attended Columbus high enrolled at UVM.

Although the partnership has been very successful, according to some students, it has been somewhat difficult for students from Columbus to adjust to UVM and to Burlington because of the stark differences between the two settings.

UVM has begun a similar relationship with another high school in Boston, City on a Hill, a charter school with a mostly African American student body.