One of the highlights each year of Diversity Life Weekend is the university-wide talent show “Spectacular! Spectacular!”
When the invitation for Diversity Life Weekend arrived in Hatem Hassan’s mailbox last year, he had not considered attending Lehigh and had not even toured its campus.
But Hassan accepted the invitation to visit the campus last April and was immersed in life at Lehigh during Diversity Life Weekend. He stayed with a student in an Upper Centennial dorm room, ate food from the university dining halls, watched the university-wide talent show, and sat in on a biology class.
The weekend changed not only Hassan’s perspective on the school, but his choice of universities.
“If I didn’t come to D-Life last year, I wouldn’t be here at all,” says Hassan, a first-year Lehigh student.
This year, Hassan is volunteering with Diversity Life Weekend
, which takes place April 18 through April 20. He is helping set up for the university-wide talent show “Spectacular! Spectacular!” and is providing a prospective student a place to sleep on Saturday and Sunday night.
Like all students invited to Diversity Life Weekend, Hassan was already admitted to Lehigh, and had a strong academic record and an interesting story to tell. His family moved from Egypt to the United States when he was a child.
Other prospective students received invitations because they represented regional, social-economic or racial backgrounds that are less common among applicants to Lehigh.
“These students represent the type of diversity that Lehigh is seeking in its goal to increase its number of students with interesting backgrounds,” says David Thompson ’06, an assistant director of admissions and diversity recruitment. Seven years ago, Thompson, too, attended this program as a prospective student. Now, he, with LaVonne Clark, associate director of admissions and director of diversity recruitment, organize Diversity Life Weekend.
This year, more than 120 students will arrive on campus, coming from locations as far as Alaska, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Nicaragua. They will be white, black, Asian, Hispanic and biracial. Some are first-generation college students, and others may be first or second-generation American or permanent U.S. residents.
The number of prospective students participating in Diversity Life Weekend has increased dramatically since the program was redesigned in 2005, Thompson says. That year, more than 50 students attended. The number of participants had more than doubled by 2008 when 120 students attended, and of those, approximately 60 percent enrolled.
”The host has a tremendous impact”
Once they arrive on campus, the prospective students will follow a brisk schedule. Among other things, they will meet members of Lehigh’s faculty, staff, students and alumni, observe and taste Lehigh’s cultural diversity at the International Bazaar, attend faculty seminars, and tour campus and its surrounding Bethlehem neighborhood.
Many students from previous years consider “Spectacular! Spectacular!” to be the weekend’s highlight and Hassan believes this year’s talent show on Saturday, April 18 will be even better than last year’s.
Often the prospective students’ decision to attend Lehigh depends not on the talent show, but on their student host. On Saturday and Sunday night, the prospective students stay in the residence halls of current Lehigh students. These hosts provide safe housing and entertainment Saturday and Sunday night and take their guest to dinner Sunday.
“The host has a tremendous impact on whether or not a student comes,” Thompson says, because the prospective student observes a slice of an average Lehigh student’s life and hears the host’s perspective on the school.
Hassan says the host “can either make or break your experience at Lehigh.” He hopes to take his guest out to dinner and then to an alternative rap concert. He says, “I really want kids to have the opportunity I had.”
Photo by Douglas Benedict