Chicago native Lopez leading minority student recruitment efforts in CollegeBy Josh Schonwald
In an effort to strengthen its outreach to students of color, the Office of College Admissions has hired Norma Lopez as its first Director of Student of Color Recruitment.
Lopez, a Chicago native who joined the admissions staff this fall, previously worked in admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and as admissions and student services dean at Williams College.
“Norma will be a considerable help to our office,” said Ted O’Neill, Dean of College Admissions. “She’s worked on one of the country’s finest admissions staffs, and she has a valuable perspective and connections as a graduate of a Chicago public school.”
A Pilsen native, Lopez graduated from Benito Juarez High School before attending Williams College. “It’s an interesting process to go through,” she said of her transition from Juarez, an urban school that is over 95 percent Latino, to an elite small liberal arts college.
“And it’s an experience that I’d like to pass on to other students.”
Recently returned from a one-week recruitment trip to Texas and New Mexico, Lopez plans to bring more long-range planning to Chicago’s minority recruitment during her first year. She will work to establish relationships with feeder programs, such as Prep-to-Prep and ABC, which nurture high-achieving students of color at private high schools. She also will work to strengthen relationships with public and parochial high schools in areas such as Texas and New Mexico, which traditionally have not sent many applicants to Chicago.
As the primary College Admissions Office contact with student services, Lopez will work closely with the Office of Minority Student Affairs and with current students of color.
Developing relationships with existing students is especially important in recruiting students of color, Lopez said. “Many students of color have less access, so they’re less likely to get assistance from guidance counselors, and they’re less likely to reach out to us,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important for them to have contact with existing students.”
Lopez is currently coordinating the College Admissions’ phone-athon, in which current students of color contact students of color who have expressed interest in the College, but have yet to finish their applications.
After her first two months, Lopez is enthusiastic about her task.
The University offers a highly unique experience, said Lopez. “It’s a chance to have an intimate, rigorous education in a diverse setting. I’m prejudiced on the issue, but I think Chicago is the greatest city in the world.”
Though she is thrilled about the transition from the semi-rural atmosphere of Williams to her native Chicago, Lopez said one thing remains the same. “I’m still selling the same thing,” she said, “a liberal arts education. And no research institution offers a better liberal arts education than Chicago.”