At Penn, free food is generally a surefire way to lure people into an event, especially with hundreds of student groups fighting over the current 2,399 freshmen.

And among those recruiting this fall, Penn's minority community has already made a strong effort to get their message out strong and early.

In the next two weeks, over 50 of the minority-oriented groups on campus will hold their first general meetings to set agendas for the coming year.

Prior to those first gatherings, minority groups are trying hard to attract freshmen with a slew of social events -- from barbeques to downtown parties --├┐all geared toward spreading the word about the organizations and, ultimately, ensuring that the Class of 2005 will be represented in a spectrum of minority student groups.

Many student leaders and administrators believe that the recruitment of minority students into these groups is integral to retaining minority students at Penn.

"In order to attain higher retention rates of minority students at Penn, which is certainly a problem, it is important for them to be comfortable on campus and in a college setting," said College junior Shaun Gonzales, the special projects coordinator for the Latino Coalition.

So, taking this advice, starting early Sunday, UMOJA, the Black Student League and Makuu sought to foster campus unity with an informal barbeque in Hamilton Village to welcome everyone back and give new students the opportunity to meet group members.

"The barbeque was very successful in the sense that we had a lot of freshmen and upperclassmen come out," said College junior Kim Noble, political action and research committee coordinator for UMOJA.

"We were very glad to see that people came, ate and hung out because often with these events people come but don't stay very long," she added. "Sunday was a beautiful day with good food and good company and people really took advantage of that."

Campus minority organizations seek to ease the transition for first-year students.

"The various organizations of the Latino Coalition can help provide not only a comfortable setting for Latino freshmen, but a foundation for their cultural and social exploration of Penn as well," Gonzales said.

To evoke such a setting, the Pan-Asian American Community House will hold an open house event to invite students into their new space in the ARCH.

To christen the new area, PAACH is asking students from all Asian-Pacific Islander associations to donate pictures, artwork, posters and drawings to decorate the new space.

PAACH opened last fall after several years of student, faculty and staff efforts to dedicate a resource center for the Asian-American community. With a new space and a year of experience under their belt, coordinators are eager to open their doors -- and their walls -- to the Class of 2005.

"It is really important to create a student presence in the building," PAACH director Karen Su said. "It is, after all, a space for all of them."

For many groups, freshman outreach began months ago. Members of the Asociaci¢n Cultural de Estudiantes Latino Americanos and the BSL sent letters to freshmen over the summer introducing them to the organization and telling them what to expect when they arrive at Penn for the first time.

Other groups have found success using the same formula.

Wharton freshman Johnny Kong has already been actively involved in the Hong Kong Student's Association since they first contacted him with letters and e-mail in July. The group provided meetings in Hong Kong for potential members to get to know each other and the organization.

Kong's experiences with the HKSA led him to the PAACH/Asian-Pacific Islander community fair on College Green yesterday afternoon to listen to the music of Penn Masala. Penn Nihon, a group representing Japanese students, was also handing out fliers for a party hosted by the minority Greek organizations Lambda Phi Epsilon and Kappa Delta Phi and the Penn Nihon club itself. The three groups started a program this year to allow new students a different setting in which to get to know each other.

"With a party atmosphere you get to meet different kinds of people when they are in a social mood and you get to meet people on a different level," Kong said of the differences between a getting-to-know-you party and a general meeting.

And hopes are high for this new type of recruiting event.

"Our aim is to increase membership with the party," said College senior Jack Wang, a board member of the Penn Nihon Club. "The sheer numbers that a party can attract should get a lot of people interested in the different groups."

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