Athens, Ga. – Brandon Young is excited about computer programming and he wants others to be excited too. The Miles College (Ala.) sophomore has spent the summer working with UGA faculty mentor Don Potter to develop a hands-on course in robotics, which they hope will lure students into this discipline at UGA. Through the UGA Graduate School Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), Young and 47 other undergraduates from around the country have gotten a taste of graduate-level research and seen a glimpse of their futures as scholars, researchers and innovators.
SURP and other outreach initiatives at the graduate school help students from all backgrounds, particularly those historically underrepresented at UGA, prepare for the rigors of graduate study, easing what can be difficult transitions from undergraduate to graduate institutions and making students more aware of the opportunities at UGA.
The graduate school’s efforts are reflected in the recent ranking by Diverse Issues in Higher Education of UGA at 21st in the nation (7th in the southeast) in conferring doctoral degrees upon African Americans. Since 1999, when the graduate school began formalized inclusiveness programming, enrollment among African-American graduate students has increased by 100 percent (from 316 to 664).
“Each year the enrollment percent grows, which we’re trying to ensure leads to more degrees conferred,” said Maureen Grasso, dean of the graduate school. “Although we have more work to do, we know we’re on the right track spreading the good news about the opportunities at UGA.”
Attrition at the graduate level is often due to unrealistic expectations by students regarding the level of work required. Graduate recruitment programs aim to present undergraduate students with an accurate portrait before they enroll in graduate school, increasing the chances for completion of a graduate program.
“SURP lets students who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance see what a real research group is like,” said Jason Locklin, an assistant professor in chemistry and a faculty mentor for the intensive, eight-week program in which students live in dorms, are paid a stipend and perform research with faculty in their areas of interest. “These students get to see the difference between course work and a research setting.”
That difference is also explored through workshops on preparing for the GRE, learning about the requirements of graduate scholarship and presenting research. This year for the first time, participants pursued research in areas other than the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Topics ranged from sequencing a progenitor of the wheat genome to examining the development and uses of medieval armor.
“Our office works year round to provide the students with a unique and fun research-based program,” said Jessica Anderson, director of outreach and diversity at the graduate school. “The SURP scholars inspire us at the graduate school to continue the lifelong pursuit of education based on both academic rigor and diverse environments.”
For more information on recruitment and outreach at the graduate school, see www.grad.uga.edu or contact the outreach and diversity office at 706/425-3206.