Diversity Attracts Students to Winthrop

Nicole E. Smith, Herald Online, April 15, 2012

Sheila McMillan regularly receives calls from students thinking about attending Winthrop University.

The Columbia attorney gives them many reasons, but one stands out—diversity.

“I’m proud of them,” McMillan said of her alma mater. “They have the highest intake of minorities in a predominantly white university here in the state. To me, that is a very positive statement.”


Winthrop today is a school of about 6,000 students. Minorities make up about 35 percent of the enrollment, of which about 27 percent are black.

Back in 1989—the year McMillan became the first black member of the Winthrop Board of Trustees—the percentage of black students on campus was significantly lower—9 percent.

That was also the year trustees hired Anthony DiGiorgio as president.

McMillan and others say the mission to increase the black population on campus—and therefore, the diversity—can be traced back to DiGiorgio’s arrival.


DiGiorgio announced last month his plans to retire next year after what would be 24 years with the university. While recounting what he considers his educational successes, he discussed the efforts to boost minority enrollment.

“We very intentionally set out as a goal,” he said, “to have the Winthrop University student body represent the graduating high school population in an ethnic sense, in a racial sense.”

His goal was laid out in the university’s “Vision of Distinction,” a blueprint for the future that also included plans to upgrade and add buildings.

The mission was campus-wide, said Frank Ardaiolo, Winthrop’s vice president of student life.

“He gave the charge to make Winthrop University the institution of choice for African-Americans in South Carolina,” he said. {snip}


Each department has responsibilities and a plan to answer the question, “What are you going to do to appreciate diversity?”

Admissions office and campus representatives visit majority-black high schools, which are typically under-represented at the state’s universities “to let students know this is the place for them,” Ardaiolo said.

Prospective students who are black also can speak with Winthrop representatives who are of the same race.

DiGiorgio said those efforts also involved meeting with community leaders and attending dinners at mostly black churches.


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