Call it charisma. Call it personal magnetism. Call it infectious enthusiasm or irresistible zeal. No matter what name it goes by, Descatur (pronounced Day-Ka-Tur) Potier has it. And that’s what helps make him so good at student recruitment.
“My passion is working with first-generation, low-income kids,” he said. “It’s my job to do the outreach, to put in the effort to make the partnerships, to build the bridges that we need built and to expand the scope for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to continue to do the great things to make this school representative of this state and what makes it such a great state.”
Officially, “Des” is the associate director for diversity recruitment, a role he’s had for almost four years.
“People look at me and listen to how I talk about [my job] in these grandiose ways and it may seem odd, but I think that, honestly, is what we’re here to do,” he said. “In this office, we see ourselves as the caretakers of the opportunities for students to get a great education and come to a great institution. We take it very seriously. We want to recruit the best and the brightest across the state and beyond, regardless of what their backgrounds are. We want geographic diversity, linguistic diversity, racial and ethnic, socioeconomic diversity. All those things together make UGA what it is.”
To make it that way, Potier operates on multiple fronts. He works with schools like the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta to create pipelines that funnel bright students to UGA. He helps develop outreach programs to meet high school students from underrepresented populations. And he guides programs for younger students, too, to get them thinking about UGA years before they’re ready for college.
His efforts have landed him speaking spots at national academic and recruitment conferences; and they’re changing the face of education at UGA.
“The percentage of African Americans in the incoming class has gone up from 7 percent to 8.7. This year’s class has the largest number of African Americans in a freshman class since 1995. We were roughly around 1.5 percent Hispanic students in our incoming class five years ago, and we are now close to 5. 5 percent. And the thing is, the quality of these students is impressive,” Potier said. “We have kids who are in the top 10, top five of their classes. We have valedictorians. We have Coca-Cola First Generation Scholars. We have Gates Millennium Scholars. So when you see these African-American and Latino students on campus, they are the best and the brightest from all across the state. We as an institution should be proud to have them here on our campus.”
That kind of enthusiasm comes from his personal experience. Potier was born in Boston, the son of Haitian immigrants. He credits a scholarship to a preparatory school with giving him the opportunities to succeed.
“I am a first-generation, low-income student. I understand the impact of getting a quality education and getting that social capital that allows you to do some amazing things, and taking you from one station in life and putting you in another. And I guess because of what I’ve come from, something about that resonates with the kids,” he said. “So when I go into recruitment, I’m thinking of that same thing. This education at UGA changes lives.”
Associate Director for Diversity Recruitment and Access
Office of Undergraduate Admissions
B.S., Political Science, Trinity College, 2003
M.S., Education, Tufts University, 2007
At UGA: Nearly 4 years