“The struggle continues!” That’s what Terri Houston had to say to anyone who might suggest that now that America has a black president, minorities have arrived at an even playing field.
If you haven’t met Houston, there’s a decent chance you’ve heard of her. She’s sung the national anthem with Chancellor Holden Thorp at athletic events, and is a ubiquitous presence on campus.
She recently stepped down as UNC’s interim chief diversity officer and is back in her former role as senior director of recruitment and multicultural programs in the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.
Houston recruits minority students, those from low-income and rural areas and first-generation college students. Once these students arrive at UNC, it’s also Houston’s job to help engage them in campus life.
Targeted recruitment has been around for a while, and it has literally changed the face of UNC. Back in 1968, the historically white campuses of the UNC system were just 1.7 percent African American, and the federal government was threatening statewide desegregation orders.
It was in this context that Project Uplift, a recruitment program for high-ability students from underrepresented backgrounds, began bringing high schoolers to campus.
Forty-plus years later, “PU” is still going strong, while UNC’s African American enrollment has grown to 11 percent, Latino enrollment is booming and total minority enrollment has hit 30 percent.
So we should be satisfied, right? Well, not quite.
To Houston, a measure of the University’s diversity is in the lived experiences of students once they arrive. By that metric, we’re doing pretty well.