Centralized approach needed to recruit
minority grad students
By Anne Bromley
a young Argentine came to the United States in 1980 for a medical
fellowship, his new neighbors two children followed by
their mother welcomed him with a homemade cake.
than 20 years later, Dr. Ariel Gomez, U.Va.s interim vice
president for research and graduate studies, wants to extend
a similar welcome to minority graduate students, although the
cakes ingredients would consist of stipends and resources.
would appeal to graduate student Brandi Collins, even though she
just finished the Architecture Schools masters program
in urban and environmental planning.
she arrived at U.Va. two years ago, she asked where to find resources
for minority graduate students, but was told there wasnt
a specific place. Collins helped revive the Black Graduate and
Professional Student Organization to do something about that.
is one of nearly 20 faculty, graduate students and administrators
involved with recruiting or admissions whom Senior Vice President
William Harmon assembled this past semester to work on a new initiative
aimed at attracting and retaining graduate and professional students
from under-represented minorities.
a matter of building the ranks of future faculty, Harmon said.
For 2002-03, the percentage of minority graduate and professional
students was approximately half the percentage of minority undergraduates
(see table, below).
is more critical in light of the challenge to affirmative action,
especially looking at it from a future point of view, he
said. The institution has a responsibility to develop a
diverse cadre of individuals who will teach, conduct research
and provide professional services.
we dont do it, who will?
of Miniroty Grads & Undergrads
of minorities: 2,949,
or 23 percent
and Professional Students
of minorities: 728,
or 12 percent
Institutional Assessment and Studies
African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and
Native Americans. Does not include international students
and those choosing to remain unclassified.
leaders agree that U.Va. needs a centralized, University-wide
approach to recruiting minority graduate students that will boost
the process departments and schools now handle separately. With
support from President
John T. Casteen III and Provost Gene Block, as well as Gomez,
Harmon checked with all the deans and said he found everyone eager
committee broke into four groups to work on publicity and publications,
centralized recruitment, barriers and aspirations, and best practices.
Their individual reports will be consolidated into one document
with recommendations and submitted to Gomez next month.
best practices group found that schools and programs run into
the same problem when theyre recruiting at national conferences:
potential applicants ask about other disciplines and areas of
interest at U.Va., but recruiters dont have the information
at hand. That factor could cause U.Va. to lose a good applicant
in the tough competition among universities for outstanding graduate
students, Harmon said.
addition, schools, programs and offices would benefit from pooling
their resources and sharing the costs for recruitment and retention
efforts. The University must develop ways for students to feel
attracted to and connected to the whole institution, not just
their program or department, Harmon said. They need a central
place to go for information about matters such as health care,
housing and job prospects for spouses.
task force recently hosted a meeting of minority graduate students
to discuss what barriers exist and their aspirations for making
the University a more welcoming place.
students echoed the call for a central office, with a special
focus on minority needs, where all graduate students could get
information and other services. They also identified a lack of
faculty mentoring, inadequate financial support and the need for
more ways to connect with other graduate students, Collins noted.
need more ways for students to get exposed to each other and to
celebrate their achievements, added Gomez.
increase financial support, fund raising should be targeted toward
creating more assistantships and scholarships, Harmon said, a
goal that could be built into the next capital campaign.
the meantime, the committee is recommending that such a group
becomes a permanent part of the research and graduate studies