Racial diversity prevalent at Salem College, president says

Racial diversity prevalent at Salem College, president says
January 29
00:00 2015

In photo: Salem College President Dr. Lorraine Sterritt speaks Jan. 24. Photo by Todd Luck

Salem College President Dr. Lorraine Sterritt touted the virtues of her women’s college at the American Association of University Women luncheon at Five Points restaurant on Saturday, Jan. 24.

Sterritt gave a long list of the virtues of Salem College, like how 48 percent of traditional undergraduates are non-white students.
“I think the word is out there that we are academically serious and very nurturing, and we have really attracted people of a highly diverse population in every sense of the word and we have many first generation college students,” she said.

Sterritt became the 20th president of the 242 year-old women’s college last July. Previously she was dean for administration at Harvard University and has held many other positions at Harvard, Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania.

She spoke to the Winston branch of AAUW, a group of college-educated women who promote equity for women through education, advocacy, philanthropy and research.

Sterritt said half of the traditional students are first in their families to go to college. Sterritt, a native of Ireland who attended Stanford University, could identify with that. The product of a truck driver father and stay-at-home mother, she, too, was the first in her family to go to college.

Along with the college, Salem also has its academy for grades 9-12. A quarter of its students come from overseas, representing nine different countries, such as Bhutan. She said 100 percent of the academy graduates are accepted into college.

Sterritt said enrollment is up 12 percent at both the academy and college, but that also comes with the problem of where to put students.
Ground was broken on a dorm in December, which is “being built faster than the speed of light,” because it has to be ready for the fall semester.

There’s currently a $60 million campaign that includes new and renovated science buildings. But Sterritt swore that despite its growth, Salem will always have small class sizes.

“We have room for growth, and I tell people we’re not trying to become a large liberal arts college, we’re just trying to become a slightly larger small liberal arts college,” she said.

Her audience couldn’t have been more receptive to talk about educationally empowering women. The local AAUW champions the cause in a number of ways. The latest is a $tart $mart Workshop, funded by a AAUW grant, at Winston-Salem State University in March to teach female seniors how to negotiate for fair pay in the workplace. The group is also planning to mentor and give free books to students at Ashley Elementary.
“It’s about opening new doors to women,” said AAUW Co-President Judythe Atkinson.

AAUW Co-President Dr. Vanessa Duren-Winfield knows about that firsthand. She was working as a research assistant when she got a grant that covered tuition and expenses for graduate school. She said she’s been a “drum major,” singing the praises for the organization ever since.
“I thank AAUW for being there for me at that time because that helped to propel me into education, and after getting my master’s degree, I went on and got my PhD,” said Duren-Winfield, who is now director of research at WSSU’s School of Health Sciences.

The group’s past efforts include a science and math program at the local Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, scholarships for girls at Forsyth Technical Community College, giving books to students at Speas Elementary School and giving school supplies, personally delivered by Duren-Winfield, to children in Malawi, Africa.

AAUW is open to women who have an associate’s, bachelor’s or higher degree from an accredited college or university. For more information on joining the local branch, contact Atkinson at

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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