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September 21, 2011

Freshmen with ‘passports’ meet their peers

New initiative highlights diversity among undergraduates

passport graphicLike many colleges across the country, the University has seen a large increase in the number of international students enrolling in its undergraduate programs. As college administrators work to encourage students to embrace the benefits of greater diversity, one new initiative at Rochester provides students with an unusual incentive: The Class of 2015 has been challenged with filling in “passports” with the signatures of fellow classmates from different geographic regions around the world. For their efforts, one successful student will win a round-trip ticket anywhere in the world.

Through the newly created Freshman Passport Challenge, Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid, hopes freshmen will meet more of their peers and find out just how diverse their class is.

“It’s an experiment,” Burdick says. “But I think it’s an activity that the entire class can participate in, have fun with, and hopefully, creates an appreciation for diversity across the country and the world.”

At Rochester’s orientation, each student received a “passport”—a booklet that includes geographic locations representative of Rochester students. There are 29 locations represented, including different regions of the United States, North and South America, Africa, East Asia, and China, among others. There also is one page for students who are “citizens of the world,” or would be able to sign in three or more places.

So far, it appears Burdick’s hopes for the challenge are coming true. Ling Yang, a freshman from China, had nearly 100 signatures by the fourth day of the challenge.

“I like to collect things” she says, noting that she has a large collection of stamps at home. But, one thing she hadn’t collected yet was a signature from Manhattan. “I’m still looking; I take it with me everywhere I go.”

Michelle Markowitz, a native of Potomac, Md., says she was surprised at just how diverse her class is. While Markowitz had read about the University’s diverse make-up in brochures and online, she says she didn’t really understand the depth of diversity until she started meeting people from around the globe. “I’ve met people from West Africa, Ethiopia, Taiwan, India, Germany . . . some are from places I’ve never heard of,” she says.

Students who were able to secure one signature on each page will have their passport entered into a grand prize drawing for round-trip airfare to any single destination in the world. Additional prizes include round-trip tickets to anywhere in the continental United States, and an iPad, among others. And, while the prizes are an incentive, students seem to be enthusiastic about the real purpose of the challenge. “It’s been great to see who you’re going to meet,” says Markowitz. “The diversity makes the University feel unique.”

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