- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 9, 2009

ANNAPOLIS | The U.S. Naval Academy’s incoming class will have a higher percentage of minorities than any other in history, the superintendent said Monday.

Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler, who has made diversity a top priority, said minorities will make up about 35 percent of the class of 2013. That’s 7 percent higher than the class of 2012, which had the most minorities up to that point.

The aim is to increase the ranks of minority officers in the Navy. When students graduate, they are commissioned as officers.

“Now, enrollment is not the measure, but if you want to get commissionings you’ve got to get people enrolled here,” Adm. Fowler told the academy’s board of visitors.

While increasing the number of minority students is a big step forward, Adm. Fowler emphasized that the academy’s work is not done.

“We need to ensure a successor of mine can tell this board in four years that not only did we have the most acceptances - that we have the most commissioning of minorities in the history of the Naval Academy,” Adm. Fowler said. “That is a true measure.”

The academy has seen a big increase in the number of black students - from about 6 percent in the class of 2012 to about 10 percent for the incoming class. The number of Hispanic students is more than 14 percent in the class of 2013, up from more than 10 percent the previous year.

The academy has increased outreach efforts in parts of the country that are underrepresented at the school, particularly inner cities.

The academy also received the highest number of applications from minority students in the school’s history for the class of 2013, which will have about 1,230 students. Out of 15,300 applications - the most since 1988 - the academy received 4,300 applications from minorities, a 57 percent increase compared with the previous year.

“The effort has been going on for years, but it is really starting to pick up,” Adm. Fowler said. “So when you have a pool like that, you can really find some talent.”

Lt. Jeanine Benjamin, a 2003 graduate and a diversity admissions counselor at the academy who has been focusing on boosting interest in New York City, said she concentrates on raising awareness of the academy’s opportunities.

“I spend a lot of time actually going out and meeting with schools, meeting with guidance counselors, meeting with people of influence so that they can go into their communities and talk about the Naval Academy and the great opportunities of being an officer in the Navy,” Lt. Benjamin said.

The academy also has been engaging in outreach efforts to members of Congress, who nominate students to attend the service academies, to underscore the important roles they play in bringing students to the schools.

So far, the academy has met with 17 members of Congress this year, including Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus.

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