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Air Force Academy board hears ideas for diversifying recruits

The Air Force
Academy risks falling behind elite
universities in recruiting a diverse student body unless it invests in
sophisticated, data-driven techniques to find qualified students, a former Air
Force leader said.

“Competition for top talent nationally, especially in
math and science, is getting fiercer,” Robert Goodwin, former deputy
assistant secretary of the Air Force, told the school’s Board of Visitors on

Goodwin, a 1994 academy graduate who left the Air Force in
March, led a yearlong study of academy recruiting and admissions processes
after an audit in 2005 criticized the institution’s efforts.

“The academy has achieved success to date, but they are
not well-postured with proper staffing, sophisticated data tools and data, and
involvement of senior Air Force leadership in academy marketing and
recruitment,” he said.

Goodwin said the academy needs more admissions staff and
more money to gather demographic information, and that the school must do a
better job of analyzing the information to identify nontraditional students who
might make good leaders.

His report suggests changing criteria for screening recruits
so that a student with a job and helping raise his siblings in a single-parent
family is recognized for leadership along with the straight-A student who is an
Eagle Scout.

Goodwin’s group urged Air Force leadership to get personally
involved by reaching out to potential cadets in their communities. Goodwin said
members of Congress also must help by doing more to identify students in their
districts and promoting the academy as a college option.

Board chairman Charles Garcia agreed and asked for a report
on which members of Congress fail to consistently nominate candidates for the
academy so they can be held “publicly accountable” at the board’s
next meeting in October in Washington.

Goodwin’s report also recommends using younger, more diverse
officers who better relate to high school students to recruit potential cadets.

The academy is making some progress in recruiting

Of the 1,300 cadets in the class of 2011 in basic training,
268 are women, or 21 percent, for a school record, academy Superintendent Lt.
Gen. John Regni said Friday. The class has 285 minorities, or 22 percent,
including 71 who are black, or 5.5 percent.

“The last two classes are the most diverse we’ve ever
had,” academy admissions director Col. William Carpenter said. “But
it’s a matter of can we continue? It’s getting so competitive, and my office is
maxed out.”

– Associated Press

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