With universities across the country competing for top students, Hoya Saxa Weekend aims to attract minority students through a weekend of campus immersion.
On Thursday, 83 accepted students joined current Georgetown students to participate in the 11th annual Hoya Saxa Weekend.
Born as a pre-admission program called Minority Hosting Weekend, the program has evolved into what Dennis Williams, director of the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, calls “GAAP plus.”
While attendees participate in all Georgetown Alumni Ambassadors Program events, they also arrive a day earlier, stay a day later and live in campus housing with student hosts.
First-time host and past program participant Daisy Franco (SFS ’15) said that the weekend is crucial for attracting students to the university.
“For me, going to Hoya Saxa Weekend was the deciding factor on whether or not I would come,” she wrote in an email. “I understand how important this weekend is, and I want to be available to other students to help them with their decision.”
Events include a reception with staff and faculty, a showcase that highlights the different cultural performance groups on campus and a bus tour of the District.
“[The weekend] truly shows minority students from different backgrounds that if they come to Georgetown, there is a niche for them,” Donna Hernandez (SFS ’13), Hoya Saxa Weekend co-chair, said.
Though Asian Americans, blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans represent about 30 percent of admitted students, they make up about 22 percent of Georgetown’s student body.
While the annual yield among black students has historically been about 30 percent, lower than the university’s overall yield of 46 percent, last year the figure rose to 40 percent.
According to Center for Multicultural Equity and Access Program Coordinator Jacqueline Mac, Hoya Saxa Weekend greatly increases the yield rate for minority students. About 70 percent of the weekend’s attendees enroll at Georgetown, she said.
When the event’s predecessor, Minority Hosting Weekend, was cancelled after 1999, the yield rate for minorities dropped, Williams said. In response, the program was reborn as Hoya Saxa Weekend in 2001.
“It’s an opportunity for an amazing group of students who normally wouldn’t have the chance to come to campus before they choose, and now they can see what Georgetown is like and experience the strong minority community that we have here,” Brittney Blakely (COL ’14), Hoya Saxa Weekend co-chair, said.
The CMEA pays for all transportation costs for weekend attendees, spending about $40,000 on 83 students this year.
“Once anybody’s here, you’re able to see the campus first-hand and fully embrace it,” Hoya Saxa Weekend transportation coordinator James Saucedo (MSB ’13) said. “And it’s only then that we can increase our numbers and see more students of color actually enrolling here.”
The program operates on a first-come, first-serve basis until space is full. While the cap varies every year, the Office of the Provost has provided increased funding for the last two years to allow more students to attend the event.
Only minority status, not financial situation, is considered when extending invitations to accepted students, because financial aid packages are often not completed when invitations for Hoya Saxa Weekend are sent out, according to Mac.
While GAAP does not have a hosting program, the Office of Financial Aid identified 10 students as being otherwise unable to afford a GAAP visit, paid for their transportation to campus and had them live with current students for the weekend. According to Lia Glavin, senior assistant director of undergraduate admissions, roughly 400 students attend each GAAP open house, making it difficult to ensure that all visiting students have the best experience in a hosting situation.
Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admission Robert O’Rourke said the admissions office directs such efforts toward first-generation college students.
“For us, we are particularly interested in working with students who are first-generation college bound, so often those are the kinds of students who we can make that opportunity available to as part of the process,” he said.