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PLUS scholarship aims to create a diverse campus

<p>Director of Diversity and Inclusion&nbsp;Ada W. Wilson in her office on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017 in Auburn, Ala.&nbsp;</p>

Director of Diversity and Inclusion Ada W. Wilson in her office on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017 in Auburn, Ala. 

The PLUS scholarship was created at Auburn to increase the diversity of the student population, but it means something more to the scholarship recipients and faculty involved in the PLUS program.

The PLUS scholarship is awarded and accepted by about 50 to 75 Auburn students every year. The scholarship is meant to support a diverse group of students financially, academically and socially during their time at Auburn.

Dremere Woods, sophomore in aerospace engineering, said before earning the PLUS scholarship, “the odds were stacked against me not to come to college.”

Woods is a first-generation college student who grew up in Section 8 housing. 

He said the scholarship was huge for him and “college wouldn’t be an option without PLUS,” and the extra support through the PLUS program has helped him be successful at Auburn.

He said PLUS “gives people like me the opportunity to come to school and be able to afford it.”

Woods said the diversity and inclusion training through PLUS has pushed him to “take this training to inform other individuals.”

He was voted one of the top 100 interns at GE Aviation, which he said he accredits to his knowledge about diversity and inclusion that he learned through the PLUS program.

Woods said he was a part of a competition where they gathered data on people’s comfortability with discussing diversity and inclusion. 

Woods said he thinks the PLUS scholarship is making Auburn more diverse and inclusive towards a host of backgrounds.

According to Jasmine Prince, assistant director for inclusive excellence at Auburn University, the scholarship has been awarded to students from the following racial backgrounds: 8% Asian, 48% Black, 1% Hispanic, 20% multiracial, 21% white, 1% Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander and 1% unreported students.

Incoming freshmen apply for the PLUS scholarship on AUSOM and are required to complete an essay question. 

Ada Wilson, assistant vice president for access and inclusive excellence, said the essay question is “focused on the importance of having a diverse campus body.” 

These essays are reviewed twice by different faculty members at Auburn from across the campus community.

Other criteria for selection include socioeconomic background, if the applicant is an Alabama resident and whether or not the applicant will be a first-generation college student.

Aside from monetary contributions, the Office of Inclusion and Diversity aids PLUS scholars by “being involved and creating a network of support,” Wilson said.

All PLUS scholars are a part of the Tiger Excellence Scholars Program which is centered around four pillars: academic excellence, potential to be a leader, diversity and inclusion and future focus.

Wilson said the focus of this program is to help students be involved on campus, plan for the future and collaborate within a diverse society. 

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The focus is also to lean into tough conversations about inclusion and diversity in students’ everyday lives, she said.

PLUS scholars are required to get five study hours a week and are encouraged to attend success seminars. The Office of Inclusion and Diversity serves as secondary advising and a support system at Auburn for these students.

The goal of the PLUS scholarship is not only to increase diversity at Auburn but to “promote a positive climate and culture,” Wilson said.

Shane Enriquez, sophomore in biomedical sciences, said members of the PLUS team “are always in touch” with PLUS scholars.

Enriquez said the most important thing about PLUS for her was that it helped pay for her education.

Enriquez is also a first-generation college student, and PLUS has provided her with helpful tips and resources to help her thrive at Auburn.

“I am grateful that PLUS helps me find job opportunities,” she said.

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