UGA ranked 13th in the nation for doctoral degrees conferred to African Americans, according to the most recent issue of the journal Diverse Issues in Higher Education (formerly Black Issues in Higher Education).
“This acknowledgement indicates that although UGA is doing well, we can still do better at serving all students,” said Maureen Grasso, dean of the Graduate School.
Figures further demonstrate the university is not only recruiting diverse students, but also retaining them. Enrollment of African-American graduate students increased by 10 percent from fall 2004 to fall 2005, and minority enrollment in general grew from 860 (of the total enrollment of 7,363) to 904 (out of 7,390) in the same time span.
The latest ranking and numbers reflect what many of the 22 recent participants of the Graduate School’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program discovered: graduate work is hard, but UGA is a welcoming place for all graduate students.
SURP, which ended earlier this month, is an intensive, eight-week program for undergraduate students from across the nation.
While on campus, the students selected for the program worked on research projects in a variety of disciplines with faculty mentors. It is one of teh many programs organized by the raduate School to increase the number of students from historically underrepresented groups in graduate programs at the university.
Michael Johnson, assistant dean and director of outreach and diversity programs at the Graduate School, is optimistic about future recruits.
“We’re very excited about this year’s SURP participants,” he said. “They represent one of the most academically strongest groups we’ve ever had in the program. We hope they will all choose to come to UGA for graduate education because they’re certainly off to a good start.”
Margie Lee, professor of population health in the College of Veterinary Medicine and a SURP faculty mentor, agreed.
“What particularly impressed me was the depth to which most of the particpants understood their research area and their ability to communicate complex principles,” she said. “This was a great group of kids.”
One factor in student attrition at the graduate level is that the students’ expectations are not always realistic regarding the level of work required. Students often learn too late that graduate school is not just a continuation of undergraduate study.
Recruitment programs sponsored by the Graduate School try to give undergraduate students an accurate view before they enroll.
“SURP showed me what research looks like, how you collect data, how you analyze it,” said Arhontia Coats, one of this year’s participants and an undergraduate at Georgia State University. “In undergraduate school, you study a book and take a test. Graduate school is so different.”
Preparing students 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 continue to be goals of the Graduate School through SURP and other outreach programs.