Bledsoe finds his niche as multicultural advocate

For nearly five years, James Bledsoe has worked to serve multicultural students at Washington State University. After about a year as coordinator of multi-ethnic relations in the Admissions Office, he recently was hired by the Office of Multicultural Student Services as counselor in the African American Student Center. The new job is a coming home of sorts, since Bledsoe worked as a recruiter in MSS for three years before transferring to Admissions.

“After working as a recruiter for about four or five years and helping students come to this university, it’s very nice to now be able to help them achieve academic success,” said Bledsoe.

“The fact that he already is connected with many people and is very familiar with the African American community will greatly benefit the students,” said Manuel Acevedo, director of MSS. “He understands their needs, challenges and the potential the students have.”

Senior Robert Easterly has spent considerable time in the African American Student Center during his years at WSU. He says it is particularly important for a predominantly white campus to have the type of services provided in the center.

“The center is a home away from home, a place where the students feel safe and comfortable, a place where they can have a person to look up to who can advise and guide them to help them graduate and succeed,” he said.

Bledsoe is quickly thinking of new ideas to help students achieve in an increasingly competitive environment. Among these are efforts to help students set academic goals and get the most from their college experience.

“Through culturally efficient programming, and as a direct result of expert advising and services, I want students at the center to have a heightened sense of academic majors and the need to set career objectives,” Bledsoe said. “To do this, I need to:
• Provide an environment that fosters faculty and staff mentoring within the student center.
• Partner with the Office of Career Services to provide ongoing career development workshops.
• Coordinate with the WSU African American Alumni Association to increase summer job-shadowing opportunities.
• Implement a systemic approach to educational intervention and recovery for academically deficient students.

“Although we’ve had some success in recruiting high achieving students of color, it’s going to take some time before we see considerable gains in our ability to attract world-class students of color,” said Bledsoe. He added that he is encouraged by the success of the Future Cougars of Color recruitment program, as well as strategic planning and partnering with private and educational groups to attract students of color.

“To maximize our efforts,” he said, “we’ve got to bring a multicultural team of recruitment specialists back onto the frontline and sustain our relationships with community leaders, educators and counselors, who have in the past played a significant role in steering top-notch students of color towards WSU.

“I feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm and hope with the appointment of Dr. Mike Tate to the position of interim vice president of equity and diversity,” Bledsoe said.

“I believe he will have an immediate impact on bolstering system-wide strategic planning, as well as provide key leadership within WSU’s central administration for recruiting faculty and staff of color and graduating students of color.”