By Nicole Freeling
One of the novel ways that the University of California is working to diversify its graduate programs is through a systemwide grant program that allows faculty to bring students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to UC campuses for summer research and mentorship opportunities.
By helping faculty strengthen research connections with HBCUs, the grant program aims to tap a talented pool of students who might not otherwise consider UC for graduate school.
The grants are flexible enough to support a wide range of faculty research and needs — whether mentoring 10 students for several years or hosting two students for a summer. The key factor is that the programs strengthen partnerships with HBCUs, which, it is hoped, ultimately will inspire more of their students to explore graduate school at UC.
"We know UC faculty understand the critical value of diversity, but we also know that resources to empower their desire to do things differently are very limited and in some fields virtually nonexistent," said Pamela Jennings, director of graduate studies at UC Office of the President. “These grants are aimed at helping change that.”
The diversity of students in doctoral programs at UC, as at other institutions across the country, significantly lags that of undergraduates. African-American students historically have been among the least-represented minorities. Faculty participants say cultivating a more diverse graduate student population creates a richer array of ideas and a more fertile environment for research. It also creates a pipeline to building a faculty that is more reflective of society as a whole.
It is the second year that the UC’s Office of the President has offered the grants. Proposals funded in its initial year included projects in history, bioengineering, English, electrical and computer engineering, education, conservation genetics and other fields.
The program brought 36 students to programs on seven UC campuses in 2012, the program’s inaugural summer. HBCU scholars participated in a diverse range of research and activities: from working with UC Davis doctoral students on honeybee research to meeting with social justice leaders in South Africa alongside a delegation from UCLA. Such experiences enable HBCU scholars to get familiar with UC culture and research, while gaining connections and practical skills that can assist them on the road to graduate school.
UC is already seeing results from the grant program. Three students have enrolled in graduate programs after participating in a fellowship and several others are applying. Ultimately, the program is designed to go beyond recruiting individual students to encourage faculty and departments to establish ongoing connections with HBCUs.
- Video on UC-HBCU initiative: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ9hB0nLCyc
- For more information: http://www.ucop.edu/graduate-studies/initiatives-outreach/uc-hbcu-program/index.html