PMC Featured in "Step Up" from "The Bay State Banner"

Pine Manor: The Nation's Most Diverse College Campus

PMC Students Dorosella Kaluma, Amy Fraser, Laura Guillermo, Marie Odney
PMC Students Dorosella Kaluma, Amy Fraser, Laura Guillermo, and Marie Odney.

Nestled in a leafy section of Chestnut Hill, Pine Manor has an incredible distinction: For the last two years, the private liberal arts college has been ranked #1 for its campus ethnic diversity by U.S. News & World Report.

The school’s diversity is an asset that Aneesah Cameron, Amy Fraser, Dorosella Kaluma, Marie Odney and Laura Guillermo have grown to appreciate and value.

The five young women have different backgrounds but share a common bond as Pine Manor students that they believe will last a lifetime.

Senior Marie Odney is from Dorchester and attended John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science. Four years ago, Odney was a quiet, shy freshman. Now she stands tall and is unafraid to share her strong opinions on a variety of topics. She has undergone a complete transformation.

"When I first arrived at PMC I only associated with people I felt comfortable with," Odney said. "What I mean is [I associated with people] I had the majority of my classes with or [ones that] had come from the same neighborhood or high school."

Then she began joining clubs and student groups, which she admits helped her grow both socially and culturally. Odney now serves as a resident assistant and president of the Campus Activities Board.

"The benefit of attending a diverse school," Odney said, "is that you are less culturally ignorant and more socially responsible with what you say and how you treat people."

In 2008-2009, 47 percent of the Pine Manor student population identified as black/non-Hispanic; 18 percent Caucasian; 14 percent Hispanic/Latina, six percent international; five percent Asian of Pacific Islander, one percent American Indian and nine percent other or unreported.

The ethnic breakdown assures the statistical likelihood that every student will interact with others from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

There are now 480 students enrolled in the undergraduate program and the average class size is 14. The school offers both two-year and four-year degrees.

For these girls, the colors of their skin are a good thing. Their college experience revolves around the connections they are building and their commitment to inclusive leadership and social responsibility in their workplace, families and communities.

"Diversity has been positively correlated with learning," President Gloria Nemerowicz said. "Employers tell us they are looking for individuals with multi-cultural understanding and team building skills. At Pine Manor, we are in an environment that resembles the emerging nature of the demographics of our country."

Before entering the career world, Pine Manor students demonstrate their social responsibility by tutoring and mentoring one another. They also form community partnerships by volunteering their time at various agencies.

The fact that Pine Manor is ethnically diverse and offers lots of opportunities on- and off-campus opportunities convinced Cameron to leave her home in Providence to attend the small college.

"It [diversity] allows a person who goes in closed minded to open up," said Cameron said. "You really get a chance to learn more about people."

Fraser, a senior who hails from Marlborough, Mass., was accustomed to a diverse school setting after attending Marlborough High School and Assabet Valley Vocational High School.

She says she embraces the school’s diversity and said many of the girls she's come across at Pine Manor have really become like family to her.

Fraser also lacked confidence when she first stepped onto the Pine Manor campus.

Now, four years later, Fraser said, "This school gave me confidence to be a leader. They really strive to make us the best leaders we can [be]. If I hadn’t come here, I would still have been someone in the background."

Unlike Fraser, Kaluma's high school – Oliver Ames in North Easton, Mass. — was not made up of a diverse student population. Kaluma, now a junior, is from Rhode Island and admits that it is the family feeling that made her want to return to campus after her freshman year.

"The support of teachers, staff and sisters keeps you motivated," she said.

Guillermo, a junior from Lowell, Mass., also said that she’s found "an amazing group of people" at Pine Manor College.

The girls described Pine Manor as a laid back, tight knit community. "They really are friends," Fraser said. "When you meet someone [new on campus], you automatically feel connected."

All the girls said that they’ve learned so much from their peers and couldn’t imagine their college experience anywhere else but Pine Manor College.

"I’ll be leaving [graduating in May], but I know I can always call Dora," Odney said, "I’m never too far away from them."

Interview: Pine Manor President Gloria Nemerowicz Talks with Step Up About the School's Commitment to Diversity

President Gloria Nemerowicz and Dean of Student Life Denise Alleyne

Q. What motivated Pine Manor to increase racial diversity in the student body?

A. In 1998 the College adopted a mission to educate women for lives of inclusive leadership and social responsibility in their workplaces, families and communities. We saw a need to create an environment that celebrates diversity and respects the common good — not only in the Boston neighborhood, but throughout the entire country. That educational mission required more diversity on campus, particularly among the student body.

Q. Does this policy also extend to the recruitment of a diverse faculty? If so, how is that accomplished?

A. Absolutely — a diverse staff is a critical component of a good education and part of a college’s responsibility. It is important for our teachers to bring different perspectives to the classroom so students learn from their varied viewpoints. We continue our efforts to hire a more-diverse staff each year, actively recruiting in different locations, using various methods and finding new pools of candidates.

Q. How many different ethnicities and minorities are represented at Pine Manor?

A. We have more than 20 ethnicities at Pine Manor — from African American to Puerto Rican to Native American to Hispanic to Cape Verdean to Haitian to Asian/Pacific Islander to Dominican and many, many more. In addition, 7 percent of our undergraduate population is international! For five of the past six years, U.S. News & World Report has ranked Pine Manor as #1 in diversity among all liberal arts colleges in the country. We have 500 students and 200 employees.

Q. What is the dropout rate, and what is the greatest reason for students leaving before graduation?

A. The national graduation rate for the students we serve is 25 percent. Our rate is 53 percent. Last year Washington Monthly ranked Pine Manor College as #1 for “actual vs. predicted” rates of graduation. Students sometimes leave before graduation because of financial problems, personal life conflicts or physical health issues. However, many of them do return once these issues have been resolved.

Q. How are students who did not perform at the highest level in high school evaluated for admission? What is the enrollment process?

A. We evaluate students for admissions holistically — we consider their high school grades and their standardized test scores but we also give considerable weight to a student’s community involvement, the thoughtfulness of her essay and third party recommendations. Most importantly, we conduct substantial interviews and measure factors such as realistic self-appraisal, adaptability, long-range goals, the ability to deal with adversity, and motivation — all of which are related to “grit,” which we believe is a predictor of success.

Q. How are financial problems resolved? What steps did you take to make college affordable for the students?

A. In 1998, we reduced tuition by 34 percent and we continue to be the most affordable four-year private college in the area. In addition, 94 percent of our students receive some combination of financial aid and 21 percent of the college’s operating budget is directed toward financial aid for our students.

Q. What do you see as the benefits for students from learning in a racially-sensitive academic environment?

A. The increasing globalization of all sectors of our environment, from the home to the workplace, demands that all citizens be able to draw on the rich resources of a multicultural environment. At the same time, simply living in a diverse environment does not necessarily promote cultural sensitivity. To this end, PMC has established multicultural competency as one of the key learning outcomes. Through curricular and co-curricular programming, and a variety of opportunities for reflection, the college encourages students to learn from the diversity of their environment.

Q. Pine Manor sponsored a summit of education leaders to explore ways to increase minority college attendance. What do you expect to result from the Summit?

A. The “Yes We Must Summit” brought together private colleges from across the country that are successfully educating, through graduation, students from underrepresented populations. We hope to strengthen the work of these individual colleges by joining together and gaining more resources to serve more students. This sector of higher education is essential to meeting President Obama’s goal of once again having the United States produce the highest percentage of college educated citizens.

These articles originally appeared in "Step Up" from The Bay State Banner.