A Question For Matthew Shank, Ph.D.

A Perspective on the Future of Race-Based Admissions

By Carol Schuler    //    Volume 31,  Number 4   //    July/August 2023

Matthew Shank, Ph.D., is president of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC), an association dedicated to advancing the distinctive values and strengths of seventeen, independent member colleges and universities in Virginia. Prior to VFIC, Shank was president of Marymount University, where he was named president emeritus in 2018. Earlier, he was dean of the School of Business at the University of Dayton.

Shank currently serves on several non-profit boards including: the Fulbright Association, Arlington Free Clinic (advisory); Arlington Public Schools (advisory); Path Forward (advisory); American University in the Emirates, Dubai; Cristo Rey High School; Dream Project (advisory); Leadership Center for Excellence (advisory); National Catholic Education Association; Northern Virginia Community College Foundation; Youth Apostles; and Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School.

An accomplished scholar, Dr. Shank has published numerous articles, presented at many conferences, and is the author of the book, Sports Marketing: A Strategic Perspective (6th Edition). He has consulted with over 75 organizations in the areas of marketing research, strategic planning, and marketing strategy.

1. Virginia is home to selective public and private colleges. You work with some of these private colleges. What impact on private colleges do you and your board foresee because of the Supreme Court’s decision?

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article pointed out that only 2 percent of the more than 3000 colleges and universities in the United States admit less than 25 percent of applicants. VFIC institutions mirror that national statistic, and most are not highly selective. In fact, most of our member colleges and universities will continue to serve greater numbers of racially diverse students than their more selective counterparts around the Commonwealth and the country. Additionally, Virginia’s independent colleges and universities are as racially and ethnically diverse as the state’s four-year public colleges. So, most private colleges and universities won’t need to dramatically shift their admission strategies. However, all will need to remain focused on race-neutral policies that may impact recruitment, scholarship criteria, legacy admissions practices, etc.

2. Your association does not work on public policy issues. What services do you provide to members?

The VFIC serves seventeen independent colleges and universities in the Commonwealth. Our primary role is securing additional financial support via funding from corporations, foundations, and individuals. In addition, we seek to enhance the awareness and understanding of the benefits of private higher education in Virginia. Finally, we offer programs that allow students, faculty, staff, and in some cases, the community to collaborate. For example, the VFIC Ethics Bowl, now in its 23rd year, provides students at VFIC colleges and universities the opportunity to engage in the lively debate and consideration of applied ethics—real world dilemmas (e.g., ethics and the environment) that affect people’s lives in increasingly complex ways.

3. Are you considering any new programs for members to address the ruling on affirmative action?

The Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges has a history of commitment to students who are traditionally underrepresented on most college campuses. We plan to continue to strengthen and offer scholarships and programs to assist underrepresented groups. For example, our Brighter Futures Scholarship program is designed to assist students with financial need wishing to attend any VFIC institution. Our Enhancing Career Preparation for Underrepresented Students program supplements the work of career development officers at VFIC schools by providing them with the special resources they need to help underrepresented students secure a fulfilling, lucrative job upon graduation. We have just initiated a new DEI grant program to provide funding to initiatives that will advance the recruitment, orientation, and retention of underrepresented students.

—Carol Schuler

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