Alcorn uses ‘Natchez model’ to improve diversity

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 27, 2000

Amy Hall might not be an Alcorn State University student if the school’s Natchez campus did not offer nursing classes.

The Vidalia, La., resident said she feels comfortable on the small Natchez campus of the historically black school. While the Natchez nursing school is 40 percent white, the Lorman campus is only about 5 percent white.

&uot;If I didn’t know anything about the curriculum, I probably wouldn’t have gone there,&uot; Hall said.

Email newsletter signup

But now that Hall knows how strong the nursing curriculum is, she said she would probably choose either campus.

Hall’s attitude about the curriculum at the Natchez campus is what Alcorn President Dr. Clinton Bristow hopes will attract more other race students to the Lorman campus.

Bristow calls the success of the Natchez campus – which houses the nursing program and an MBA program – the &uot;Natchez model.&uot;

&uot;The Natchez model is one we’re very proud of,&uot; he said. &uot;We’re using it because it’s been successful in getting students of other races to enroll.&uot;

The school – the nation’s oldest public historically black university – is under a court order to try to increase the diversity of its student body. The court mandate is related to the Ayers lawsuit, filed in 1975 by a man who believed his son was not getting as equal an education as students at the state’s historically white schools.

This month, a federal judge denied Alcorn about $1.8 million in Legislature-appropriated funds because he said the money was not being spent for programs ordered to promote white student enrollment. But Bristow said the money Alcorn would have received was to be used to strengthen marketing efforts and increase academic programs to attract white students.

For Bristow, the ruling was frustrating because he said the loss of that funding will delay Alcorn’s efforts to attract white students – the original reason for Biggers’ order.

&uot;That money was going to help us with diversity efforts,&uot; Bristow said.

The keys to increasing diversity, Bristow said, are high demand and quality programs. &uot;We hired the best faculty, we have a great curriculum, and as a result we have an integrated student body,&uot; Bristow said of the nursing and MBA programs.

Bristow said the school chose Natchez as its model because the campus is smaller than Lorman’s.

&uot;We have 3,000 students on the Lorman campus,&uot; he said. &uot;People by human nature are resistant to change.&uot;

The Natchez campus, meanwhile, has about 275 students.

Many of the nursing students at the Natchez campus agree that Alcorn has a strong curriculum and faculty – but they said the program needs to be better marketed.

Shane Kelly, who drives to classes from Meadville, said he did his homework before enrolling at Alcorn.

&uot;I did a five-year survey of four schools,&uot; he said. &uot;This was tops.&uot;

But students said Alcorn also needs to increase its marketing efforts to let potential students know about the programs, both at Lorman and Alcorn.

&uot;It’s basically hearsay,&uot; said Jennifer Green, a nursing student from Natchez.

Increased marketing is one of Bristow’s goals – but he said that without the money Biggers has denied the school, that goal will be a little tougher to meet.

Nursing student Mary Marshall, who chose Alcorn because it had the closest nursing program, said most of her family attended the school’s Lorman campus. But Marshall said she does not think Alcorn’s efforts to increase diversity will affect the identity of the school as a historically black institution. &uot;If anything it’s going to help,&uot; Marshall said. &uot;It’s not hurting anything at all.&uot;

Bristow agrees. &uot;A school is what it is,&uot; he said. He knows many black students will choose the school for its background, but he hopes all students will choose the school for its academic programs. &uot;All I have to do is promote academic excellence,&uot; he said.