By Tammie Adams
Air Force Academy Admissions
Diversity is a prime topic among many universities across the nation. It’s especially important at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the reasons are more than skin-deep.
One reason diversity is a prime area of interest deals with the Air Force’s coverage around the world. The Academy is well aware of the globalization of Air Force missions and the critical need for Air Force officers to function optimally and effectively in an expeditionary environment.
“By increasing the Academy’s diversity, cadets can more easily learn to live, communicate and operate among a realm of people with a realm of differences from themselves,” said Col. Carolyn Benyshek, the Air Force Academy Director of Admissions. “Since Airmen are located globally and work readily with foreign militaries and communities, we must be able to effectively focus on the mission and appreciate the differences and strengths of others.”
The Cadet Wing grows stronger and reaches its goals more effectively through the unique strengths and backgrounds each individual contributes to the team. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz spoke about the value of diversity at a recent conference in Baltimore.
“We need talented and thoughtful leaders who not only have a deep and abiding appreciation for other cultures, languages and customs, but also firm understanding that these various backgrounds and viewpoints ultimately establish a foundation of strength, legitimacy and greater efficiency,” General Schwartz said.
An original version of the Academy’s Diversity Plan, first implemented in 2008, broadly defines diversity as a composite of individual characteristics that includes: personal life experiences, geographic background, socioeconomic background, cultural knowledge, educational background, work background, language abilities, physical abilities, philosophical/spiritual perspectives, age, as well as race, ethnicity and gender.
Each term goes even deeper. For example, personal life experience many times signifies overcoming
adversity. Geographic background could mean someone comes from a remote and isolated location and has a graduating class of only 10. Socioeconomic background could mean a student works after school to help support his family. If someone grew up immersed in another country’s culture, he may possess cultural knowledge. If someone is prior enlisted and served as a linguist, he can provide the Cadet Wing and Air Force with work background and language abilities.
Air Force Academy Admissions has several initiatives in place to increase the Academy’s diversity and eventually the Air Force’s diversity among the officer corps. Personnel from Admissions’ Diversity Recruiting Division regularly travel across the nation, and sometimes around the world, visiting high schools and education fairs to inform young people about the Academy. Colonel Benyshek said Academy Admissions has effectively tripled the number of recruiting trips for minorities and individuals in areas of the country that are underrepresented.
In addition, the Admissions office holds several programs throughout the year tailored to inform applicants about the Academy opportunity and experience. One of the programs, the Diversity Visitation Program, gives highly qualified, diverse high school students from across the United States a chance to visit the Academy and shadow cadets for four days. The students spend their visits eating meals in Mitchell Hall, attending classes with cadets and staying in cadet dorm rooms. In addition, they receive a tour of the airfield, Academy Preparatory School and Cadet Chapel, a briefing by an officer and a question-and-answer session with senior leaders. They also experience an Academy athletic event.
Another program, tailored to increase the number of prior enlisted cadets at the Academy, is called the Leaders Encouraging Airmen Develop-ment Conference. This is a twofold program held annually at the Academy that informs base leaders worldwide about the Academy education opportunity available to young enlisted
Airmen and identifies highly qualified Airmen applicants, allowing them to visit the Academy and experience the lifestyle.
In the past, the Academy Plans and Programs office tracked statistics involving race, ethnicity and gender, but they are now also recording statistics in regard to first-generation college students, socioeconomic background, language abilities and prior enlisted experience so the Academy can track further changes in diversity over the years.
“We continue to make strides in strengthening the cadet wing through diversity,” Col. Benyshek said.
“We would like to have an even more diversified cadet wing, and we realize the importance and benefit
of optimizing the talents and strengths of our nation and growing an officer corps that reflects the enlisted force it leads.”
Class of 2014 Diversity Statistics
The Air Force Academy Class of 2014 includes approximately 1,275 basic cadets who inprocessed June 24 to begin Basic Cadet Training. The Academy does not have special admissions policies for different groups of cadets: all candidates are held to the same standard. Below is a glimpse of their composition and background, compared to last year.
Minority applicants: 4,064 out of about 11,000 (37 percent)
– Women: 291 (22.9 percent), +5.8 percent
– Minorities: 350 (27.5 percent), +12 percent
– 9.8 percent Asian-Pacific Islander, +38.9 percent
– 8.8 percent Hispanic American, -13.2 percent*
– 7.9 percent African American, +23.5 percent
– 1 percent Native American, No change
– International Students: 17, +54 percent
– Average high school GPA: 3.9
– Average composite SAT score: 1315
* Due to decrease in number of qualified applicants