Author: Leah Glowacki
Oxy has attracted applicants in past years by advertising the warm climate, strong community, and solid academics. In the wake of President Obama’s election, however, students and faculty members speculate that Oxy’s attractions may shift and that the size and character of its applicant pool may also change.
According to Dean of Admissions Vince Cuseo, prospective students are attracted to Occidental’s academics and community. “Prospectives find the Oxy community genuine, unusually diverse, friendly, and accepting,” he said. Cuseo envisions little variation in these stimuli. “I don’t think the election will change students’ motivations for considering Oxy; it should reinforce them,” he said.
Cuseo also notes that Obama’s consistency with well-founded Oxy ideals will mean continued attraction of the same types of students. “Obama is considered a well educated, well-informed agent for inclusiveness and change. This characterization is congruent with the college’s intent in educating its graduates, then and now,” he said.
Some students, like Kamini Kuchinad (first-year) agree with Cuseo. She says that while more students may hear about Oxy, only those interested in its special characteristics, which go beyond its claim of Obama as an alumnus, will choose to apply. “More students won’t apply because Obama went here. More students will apply because more have heard about us,” she said.
Other students, including Aliza Goldsmith (first-year) argues that the Oxy-Obama connection will attract students who would be otherwise uninterested in a liberal arts education. “If a student wants to go into politics, in the past they may have thought they had to go to an Ivy League school. Now they know they can go to a small liberal arts college,” she said.
Current facts can’t support either position. According to the office of admissions, there was a 3% increase in applications for the class of 2013. Though a tiny percentage of these students referenced Obama when directly asked about their reasons for applying to Oxy, it is still too early to establish causation. “We’ve experienced virtually twelve consecutive years of application increases, so attributing this year’s increment to an ‘Obama bump’ is premature,” Cuseo said.
Obama’s influence on Occidental raises curiosity about Occidental’s possible influence on Obama. Cuseo says that at as a student at Occidental, Obama awakened intellectually and politically. “In the intimate, diverse, and challenging Oxy environment, he developed and honed his analytic and diplomatic skills. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to put these attributes to good use during his presidency,” he said, referring to Obama as the “poster child for an urban liberal arts education.”
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