PMC Highlighted in Black Issues in Higher Education

This article originally appeared in Black Issues in Higher Education Vol. 22 No. 10, June 30, 2005

Inclusiveness vs. Exclusiveness

When Pine Manor transitioned from an elite private college to a model for diversity enrollment, not all alumni were celebrating—initially

Pine Manor graduates exemplify qualities that have characterized the spirit of the school since its inception in 1910.

By Eleanor Lee Yates

Founded in 1910, Pine Manor College is located on 60 verdant acres in the affluent suburb of Chestnut Hill outside of Boston. In the not-so-recent past, the private women's college provided a liberal arts education to the well-bred daughters of Massachusetts' wealthy class. Many young debutantes furthered their education en route to marrying well and taking their places in high society.

Today Pine Manor College has been reinvented. During the past decade, while maintaining its all-female enrollment, administrators have taken the college in a new direction. The college is racially and culturally diverse, with students from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. In fact, US News & World Report's 2005 edition of "American's Best Colleges" ranked Pine Manor College No. 1 in the nation for campus diversity among liberal arts colleges for the second consecutive year. In addition, the magazine ranked them among the Top 10 liberal arts colleges in the country for the percentage of international students. Twenty-two countries are represented at the college.

Easier Said Than Done

Scientific exploration is a significant part of Pine Manor's curriculum of study. In a relatively short time, 10 years, president Gloria Nemerowicz and her administrative team have literally changed the face of Pine Manor The college had a small percentage of Black students in 1993, but the most recent student enrollment statistics (from fall 2003) shows that Black women make up 30 percent of the student body.

Pine Manor's makeover began in 1996 with the arrival of Nemerowicz, who had been the executive director of the Women's Leadership Institute at Wells College in Aurora, N.Y. Envisioning a new direction for the elite college, Nemerowicz had seen the value of diversity throughout her years in academia and decided to take a gamble on trying to attract a more racially and culturally diverse student body The steadily declining enrollment at the college, down to 265 students in 1996. helped facilitate the decision Today enrollment is more than 500, with 32 full-time faculty plus adjunct faculty. Approximately 13 percent of Pine Manor's faculty are of color.

Achieving a diverse student body is often easier said than done, and Pine Manor took the drastic measure of cutting its tuition costs by 34 percent six years ago to make the college more affordable to more students. And although the $26,000-a-year price tag is still out of reach for most of its students, U.S. News' survey reports that the college's graduating seniors have 70 percent less debt than most college students attending private liberal arts colleges. Approximately 85 percent of students receive some kind of aid, Nemerowicz says.

Pine Manor College seniors celebrate on graduation day. "We hold our breath all the time," Nemerowicz says about the effect of lowering tuition. "We don't have a big endowment. Tuition and board pays for less than half the expenses. We are still a struggling institution constantly trying to serve the needs of the underserved."

There are generous contributors, such as the Brown Foundation's $3 million challenge gift. But luring gifts and donations is extremely competitive now for private colleges.

The changes at Pine Manor angered some alumni, many of whom threatened to discontinue their financial support of their alma mater. And some alumni did walk away from the college, Nemerowicz recalls. But others, including those from years past, made the effort to come to campus to meet the students. It took a while, but there is strong backing by many older alumni today, Nemerowicz says.
'The alumni say they are so proud of the college," she adds. "We are not ashamed that this was a college for a privileged White class.That is an historical fact. We would be ashamed if this was a contemporary fact.”

Spreading the Word

Students say they feel a strong sense of camaraderie on campus. Along with cutting its tuition costs, Pine Manor had to work hard at actively recruiting a diverse student body. The college partners with a number of agencies, including Boston and other public school systems, as well as the Boys and Girls Clubs and the YMCA. The students perform many of their service-learning projects such as tutoring, literacy projects and other volunteer programs with the schools and at these agencies. The students gain experience from their projects, while promoting Pine Manor In fact, many of these students are now at Pine Manor because of these partnerships, Nemerowicz says.

"They are the best ambassadors for us," she adds. Students also spread the word about Pine Manor in their hometowns. And the president never turns down an opportunity to speak about the college.

Susan Webber, vice president for institutional advancement at Pine Manor, says she has the "fascinating challenge" of identifying who will make a good Pine Manor student.

"They have to appreciate the environment and a commitment to public service," she says.

According to Webber, the college's top marketing points are its small classes and individual attention, its affordability, its emphasis on preparing women for leadership roles and service learning and its diversity.

The college reaches out early to build relationships with future students, such as hosting an annual leadership conference for middle-school girls on campus that focuses on racial understanding.

"Our mission and vision are so strong that we reach out to students others may not take a chance on," says Bill Nichols, director of admissions.

Nichols recognizes that it's one thing to recruit students and another thing entirely to retain them. So the college's counseling center provides counselors, faculty advisors and others to provide individual support to help students blossom, Nichols says.

One student who has done just that is recent graduate Yasmine Noza, 21, who first learned about Pine Manor at a college fair near her Silver Spring, Md., home. The honor student was impressed by the Pine Manor students who called to share their experiences with her. Noza's family's budget was tight, so Pine Manor offered to pay her expenses for a visit.

"The campus was gorgeous, with a historical feel," Noza recalls. "The administration building is a mansion. The college has a close-knit community with small classes." An attractive financial aid package ultimately sealed the deal.

Noza, a biology major, found it easy to get to know classmates and professors. Having attended a high school with a diverse student body, the transition to Pine Manor was relatively easy.

Though her chemistry classes were a challenge, Noza says the students helped each other through, raising the class average to one of its highest.

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Noza appreciated being at a college with a diverse student body. Students talked in depth about prejudice and racism.

"We had students who came from the (same) countries (as those) who hijacked the planes. They explained the culture and what is was like to be a woman in Arab countries,” she says. “I felt I was in a safe environment to talk."

Noza, who currently has a fellowship in nanotechnology at Penn State University and plans to attend medical school next year, also plans on being an enthusiastic alumnus for Pine Manor.

"There is definitely camaraderie there. I also feel the desire to give back,” she says. And she gives a lot of credit to Nemerowicz.

"The first time I met her, a group of students was moving along in the hall and she smiled and asked how we liked it. I thought she was another staff member," Noza says. Later Nemerowicz invited the entire dormitory over for a catered lunch. "The whole dorm signed up. It was really nice. Dr. Nemerowicz wanted to know about our experience, and how they could improve."

And Noza sees no lines of delineation between alumnae of yesterday and today.

"At a panel, I talked to some of the women who graduated some years ago," she recalls. "Though the college is a different place and times have changed, the spirit of Pine Manor binds us all."

Comparatively Speaking

How does Pine Manor stack up in terms of its diverse student body compared to some other women's colleges in Massachusetts?

Pine Manor College Student Enrollment (Fall 2003)

White: 30%
Black: 30%
International: 11%
Hispanic: 10%
Cape Verdean: 7%
Other: 7%
Asian American: 4%
American Indian: 1%
Total student enrollment: 500
Tuition: $13,612
Simmons College, Boston White: 78%
Asian American: 7%
Black: 7%
American Indian: 3%
Hispanic: 3%
Bi-raclal/other: 2%
Total student enrollment: 1,823
Tuition: $24,490
Smith College, Northampton White: 54%
Race/Ethnlclty Unknown: 17%
Asian American: 10%
Nonresident Alien: 7%
Black: 6%
Hispanic: 6%
American Indian: 1%
Total student enrollment: 2,692
Tuition: $30,520
Wellesley College, Wellesley White: 48%
Asian American: 25%
International: 7%
Other: 7%
Black: 6%
Undeclared: 6%
Hispanic: 5%
American Indian: 0.4%
Total student enrollment: 2,400
Tuition: $29,176

Article published courtesy of Black Issues in Higher Education, now known as Diverse – Issues In Higher Education.