Richmond high school senior Darryl Stephens was not nervous about his upcoming college admissions interview. But when he walked confidently into the conference room Monday morning and saw 17 people—including the College of William and Mary President Gene R. Nichol—staring back at him, his heart started to beat a little faster.
Stephens immediately knew that this would be no ordinary interview, and soon discovered it was no interview at all. None was necessary. He was already in.
Nichol, along with Earl Granger, associate provost for enrollment, and Tyson Brown, assistant dean of admission, joined with Armstrong High School officials and members of the Virginia-Nebraska Alliance to surprise Stephens by hand delivering an offer of admission to the College.
Stephens gladly accepted.
“I would love to attend the College of William and Mary in the fall,” he said.
“That’s a deal,” replied Nichol.
It is the first time that Nichol has ever hand-delivered an admission letter, and the visit is part of efforts by the College to reach out to a diverse community. After visiting Stephens, Granger and Brown surprised another Richmond student at John Marshall High School with an admission offer.
“While William and Mary is very much a great institution, William and Mary has not necessarily been the place where students have felt like it was accessible,” said Granger. “We are very hopeful that over time we can show students in the Commonwealth as well as in the nation that we are very much committed to being both great and public. That means their existence is critical and crucial to our existence to make sure that our learning environment is continually enriched by their presence, their perspective, and their lives and experiences. And we’re hoping that we can continue to be creative in terms of how we reach out to a variety of audiences and populations across the Commonwealth and across the nation.”
The admission offer highlights a record year for applicants to William and Mary, with 10,828 people applying to be among the class of 2011. The applicant pool included an increase in students of color (African-American, Asian, Latino/Hispanic, Native American). This year, 2,179 students of color applied for admission to William and Mary, compared to 2,076 last year.
Granger credits the increase to creative recruiting efforts by the College and partnerships with community organizations, like the Virginia-Nebraska Alliance, a partnership that seeks to increase the number of minority health professionals and researchers nationwide. Monday’s event was a perfect example.
Stephens has not been in contact with his parents since May and lives in a group home. Despite his circumstances, he is excelling in school and is helping a Richmond doctor craft a grant proposal for sickle cell anemia research. He will graduate as the salutatorian of his class and dreams of one day becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon.
“This really does go to show you the strength of networks and partnerships,” Granger said. “At the end of the day, people arrive at their destinations from different directions, so we have to continue to cultivate and enrich our relationships with the broader community to make sure we continue to have great stories to tell, like Darryl Stephens’.”