As the administration begins to review the Diversity Initiative’s recommendations, University Provost James O’Donnell said he hopes to see changes in curriculum, faculty recruitment and admission by the middle of next year.

“It has been a valuable year in which to have these conversations going on,” O’Donnell said.

The initiative, created by University President John J. DeGioia in April 2009 and co-chaired by O’Donnell and Rosemary Kilkenny, vice president for institutional diversity and equity, is focused on improving the overall university experience of underrepresented students. The initiative established three working groups to look at how the university can improve in areas of admissions and recruitment, academics and student life.

“At the end of the day, the business is to help Georgetown live up to its own best image of itself,” O’Donnell said. “What we hope [the initiative] does is bring us to a higher level of awareness and effectiveness in what we do; the initiative ends, but the results and work continue.”

The three working groups began to meet last summer and worked through this year to develop proposals addressing key issues. The working group on admissions and recruitment submitted its proposal at the end of last semester.

O’Donnell said that both he and DeGioia have accepted the admissions working group’s recommendations and are working to institute them. The working group recommended the creation of an Advisory Group to the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, composed of students, faculty and staff. This group has already begun to discuss admissions strategies.

The admissions working group recommendations come as the university begins to design its next financial campaign. About one-third of the next financial campaign will go toward money for financial aid, according to O’Donnell.

“This makes it more possible for us to recruit more aggressively and more competitively,” O’Donnell said.

Co-chair of the admissions and recruitment working group Ryan Wilson (COL ’12) said that while he believes that his group made solid recommendations, there is still a great deal of progress to be made.

“When we get to the academic working group, that’s where I start to see a couple of challenges,” Wilson said. “I think the recommendations we outlined are very weak and don’t really address the issues.”

The working group on academics first presented its draft of proposals to the Georgetown community on April 5, with a second town hall meeting on April 14. The group recommended that the university institute a diversity requirement within its general education requirement and recruit more diverse faculty. The group also recommended that the university create an African-American studies major and programs in Asian-American and Latin-American studies.

Stephanie Frenel (SFS ’12), co-chair of the Academic Working Group, said that the town hall meetings have been productive.

“I think the town hall meetings made a decent amount of progress,” Frenel said. “It gave the faculty a chance to see that a significant amount of the student body is invested in these issues and either supports the ideas of the Diversity Initiative or are at least interested.”

Frenel added that the group was considering presenting a report that would outline what students really would like to see from the Academic Working Group.

O’Donnell said that it is too early to say what the diversity curriculum requirement would be and when it would be implemented, should it be accepted.

“The diversity requirement has attracted the most lively discussion in the last few weeks,” O’Donnell said. “There is more work to be done.”

O’Donnell said that because issues of curriculum are so complicated, the working group for academics has seen the slowest progress in developing its proposal.

“Here is where enthusiasm and academic time run up against each other,” O’Donnell said. “Other issues of curriculum and general education requirements are complicated, and there are other things people are interested in seeing us advance and do. It is going to take some time.”

O’Donnell also said that the major in African-American studies and the programs in Asian-American and Latin-American studies may be limited by a lack of funding.

O’Donnell said that he believes the draft of the Academic Working Group’s proposal will likely be revised due to student response. In particular, many students took issue with how the group defined diversity.

“There was a discussion over whether and how the definition of diversity was sufficiently clear and coherent,” O’Donnell said. “I predict that such discussion will be responded to by the group.”

While both the working group on admissions and recruitment and the working group on academics have both presented recommendations, the working group on student life has yet to submit its proposals.

“There, it is not so much a question of the resources and the challenge to do the new as it is the allocation of resources and thinking about how to do the things we’ve done better,” O’Donnell said.

Wilson said that because the initiative has not set a time frame for the recommendations to be implemented, he is skeptical.

“I’m hopeful that [the proposals] will get passed, but at the same time, it’s very cautious optimism,” Wilson said.

– Hoya Staff Writer Anna Salinas contributed to this report

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