1985: Barbara Thompson and the Office of Multicultural Recruitment and Community Affairs
Dr. Barbara Thompson has worked for the University since 1985 in student recruitment, admissions, and community outreach. She most recently served as Director of Multicultural Recruitment and Community Affairs until her retirement in 2017. Prior to Penn State Harrisburg accepting first year students, Thompson was director of the Harrisburg Area Community Recruitment Center. In 2002 the Center became the Office of Multicultural Recruitment and Community Affairs as a unit of Enrollment Services.
The Office of Multicultural Recruitment and Community Affairs serves to create “a dynamic multicultural student body” and provide “outreach into the community to help insure that students who are underrepresented at the University are made aware of the resources and opportunities to them.” In addition to working with school counselors and local organizations to create programs for low income, first-generation college goers, and others in need, the office also provides special programming, including STEM Career Launch, Academic Bowl, and Penn State Partnership.
The STEM Career Launch is comprehensive learning experience for students from local high schools who participate in career and education sessions with Penn State Harrisburg faculty and staff and professionals in the field. The program is designed to expose and encourage high school students to understand course work and work requirements and to consider higher education in math and science related areas. “We know that opportunities exist for which many students are under-prepared and the STEM Career Launch is an effort to improve awareness,” said Thompson. “The event provides an educational experience through a combination of learning tools including lectures, teamwork activities, hands-on discovery, and mentoring.”
Thompson has also been heavily involved in special programs and events across campus. In 2005, Thompson spoke during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations about her active role in the civil rights movement. She participated in the 1963 civil rights protests in Birmingham, Alabama and marched with Dr. King as a tenth grader. “There was a sense of urgency; jails were filled with students,” recalls Thompson. Addressing current and prospective students and their parents in the audience, Thompson urged parents to be more pro-active in their children’s education and espoused the importance of diversity in academia.
Thompson is also a member of the advisory board of the Harrisburg High Student Business and Industry Program and a member of the Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania Black Conference on Higher Education where she is director of the Student Leadership Development Institute. She is also the recipient of numerous awards, including The Greater Harrisburg YWCA Tribute to Women, PA Association of College Admission Counseling Human Relations Award, and the PA Black Conference on Higher Education Central Region Award.