Written by Kevin Heffernan

Recruiting diversity is one thing – Pushing a group of non traditional students further than others can do much more

Rise Managing Director Kevin Heffernan is a former recruiter for Canisius College in its Admissions department. He spoke with Canisius ’04, ’06 and ULLC alumna Janelle Brooks, now Assistant Dean of Student Conduct and Community Standards at SUNY Buffalo State, and Canisius ’18 and ULLC alumnus Jean Rios who is now an entrepreneur and High Road Fellow with Cornell University about their experiences with the program:

At Rise, we talk often about what the resurgence of cities like Buffalo and Rochester actually means, and whether that resurgence applies only to real estate developers or if it works to bring in the entire community. Since 2000, Canisius College has been cultivating a program that seeks out diversity in enrollment, but also in leadership development. The Urban Leadership Learning Communities (ULLC) program starts with recruitment. Often, students who graduate top from an inner city school have their ticket punched to universities around the country. That’s not always the case for all schools, and it also leaves out those who didn’t get straight A’s but worked their tails off for B’s while managing jobs or responsibilities at home.

These are the students Canisius would dub “diamonds in the rough” when I was working as a recruiter in their Admissions department.

A full scholarship was laid out for a majority of the students in the ULLC program, but there were still obstacles for many of the recruits. Often, but not always, they were responsible for bringing in some money to their homes, or for childcare for younger family while parents balanced multiple jobs. So Canisius looked into providing housing and more so that these students could focus on their own development for four years, knowing that they would be able to help their families in far greater ways afterward.

It’s not just about getting them to campus so that the college’s diversity numbers look better. It’s about providing a true opportunity to transform over four years, and then turn around and become leaders in the communities each of them came from. This is done through the education inside and outside of the classroom, inside Buffalo and outside of the country.

We also spoke with the Director of the ULLC program, Dr. Michael Forest, about how these students are trained to be leaders:

The ULLC enrolled its first class in Fall 2000 and experiences an impressive 80% four-year graduation rate. 154 ULLC students have graduated since 2004, and currently there are 38 ULLC students pursuing undergraduate degrees in a wide-range of majors.

Graduates have gone on to graduate programs and professions in education, medicine, business and social work or are employed in a variety of occupations.

ULLC students take a number of “Team Learning” courses, non-lecture courses in a range of disciplines. The TL courses are writing intensive and emphasize a number of “levels of engagement” with course materials to promote “mastery” through teamwork. The leadership activities that ULLC students participate in are many and varied and include: a Leadership Workshop Series, four workshops that investigate and apply leadership concepts to the demands of careers and good citizenship; a Summer Leadership Training Program for incoming freshmen, two weeks of intensive preparation for the demands of college life; the ULLC Council, class representatives to plan and promote program activities, such as the Annual Banquet, the Senior Reception, the Parent Reception and the Program Blog. All ULLC students participate in one or more internships either related or ancillary to their career plans.

Learn more about the program here. 

– –