Graduate Urges Improvement in African American Enrollment
Sacramento State's Administrative Professionals Conference Spurs Conversation

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When Matthew Brooks-Pritchard, a student assistant in the College of Continuing Education (CCE), started looking at the University’s demographics, he was stunned.

“I didn’t realize how low the African American student population was here at Sac State,” said Brooks-Pritchard, who began studying the CSU Chancellor’s Office data for the first time as a student government leader.

He knew Sacramento State enrolled more than 30,000 students in the fall 2017 semester, and that Sac State’s freshmen class consisted of 3,590 students. But what he didn’t realize was the low number of African American freshmen at Sac State: only 268.

Looking at the bigger picture – the number of African Americans attending Sac State was below 2,000. Brooks-Pritchard was one of only 1,770 African American students on campus, according to the Chancellor’s 2017 data.

Diana Tate Vermeire, the University’s new Executive Director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (OEDI), knew the demographics were challenging when she accepted the position in 2018. African Americans made up 5.8 percent of Sac State’s student body, compared to whites at 26.9 percent and Mexican Americans at 25 percent.

“Equity is the creation of opportunity, making sure everyone has the same opportunity to succeed.” – Diana Tate Vermeire, Executive Director of the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion 

When Vermeire started visiting the greater campus community, one of her first stops was the inaugural Sacramento State Professionals Half-Day Conference held at CCE. More than 100 staff members attended the event’s professional development workshops and listened to Vermeire’s lunchtime presentation on the mission of OEDI and her vision for change.

“We really want an inclusive campus,” Vermeire said, “a welcoming environment for our colleagues, students and peers” in all facets of life, from race and gender to politics and religion. “We should be willing to engage in those conversations, even across disagreements,” she added.

Vermeire was asked – on a scale of 1 to 10 – how the University was doing as far as diversity and inclusion. “Middle of the road” was her assessment, adding that it was “pretty standard for most organizations.”

“You have really great successes on campus. There are some great shining lights, but there are also some challenges,” Vermeire told participants.

One of the University’s major challenges is the recruitment and retention of black students. The recruitment and retention of faculty who reflect the community is still another.

“This resolution is to support our African American students’ academic success.” – Matthew Brooks-Pritchard, Class of 2018 

“We are a first-generation campus” of students being the first in their family to go to college,” said conference participant Lynne Koropp. She earned both her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree at Sac State and now handles information technology at the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Koropp has observed the University for more than 20 years. “Can our faculty identify with our students, do they have that connection? That’s a piece of diversity and inclusion that may be missing,” she said.

Vermeire says her job is to challenge the status quo and to navigate change. 

“Things are always changing. As our campus community changes, the needs, wants and desires of our community are going to change,” Vermeire said. “We’re being responsive and fluid to what’s happening with the community we’ve created. Diversity is about having these conversations.”

One of Vermeire’s first conversations included Brooks-Pritchard, who graduated in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation, parks and tourism management. Brooks-Pritchard was not only a student assistant at CCE, he served on the University’s Diversity Council and was an executive vice president for Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) in 2017-2018.

In May, the ASI board of directors passed a resolution to support the academic success of African American students at Sac State. It called on the University “to investigate the low retention and graduation rates” and “to enhance the African American student experience, culture and sense of community.”

“I’ve always felt like one of a few,” said Brooks-Pritchard. “This resolution supports their academic success. As an African American, I have a personal interest to lift up this student population and get them the resources that they need.” - Sharon Ito

For more information on enrollment data, visit the CSU Chancellor’s Office website: 

For a rundown of breakout sessions and feedback, visit the Administrative Professionals Half-Day Conference web page.