U.Va. Receives National Award for Efforts to Support Graduate Student Diversity

Dec. 7, 2007 — The University of Virginia received the prestigious Council of Graduate Schools/Peterson's Award for Innovation in Promoting an Inclusive Graduate Community.

The award, presented at the Council of Graduate Schools annual meeting in Seattle on Dec. 6, recognizes innovative institutional programmatic efforts in the identification, recruitment, retention and graduation of minority graduate students.

"The University of Virginia has established a strong commitment to diversity in graduate education," said Dr. R. Ariel Gomez, vice president for research and graduate studies. "This award is gratifying because it not only recognizes the strides we have made, but gives us resources and motivation to continue with this important mission. We know that having students from many different backgrounds ensures a diversity of thought, which we believe is an important element of research inquiry.”

The University received the award based upon a proposal submitted by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies to establish a pilot mentoring program for graduate students from diverse backgrounds. The program — grounded in research conducted by Darden School of Business professor Martin Davidson and Dartmouth College professor Lynn Foster-Johnson — aims to address both challenges faced by graduate students from underrepresented populations and the need for faculty mentors to understand the unique experiences of these students

The award includes a $20,000 grant to create an Inter-Ethnic/Interdisciplinary Mentoring Institute for Graduate Education. A key component of the program will be the use of "reciprocal mentoring," a mutually beneficial process that nurtures students while raising the cultural sensitivity and mentoring skills of faculty. 

Cheryl Burgan Evans, director of Graduate Student Diversity Programs, was in Seattle to accept the award. "The University has dedicated significant effort and resources toward enhancing graduate student diversity and creating a climate conducive to academic and personal success among students from diverse backgrounds," she said. "I am pleased to see such efforts recognized at the national level."

In addition to the grant from the Council of Graduate Schools and Peterson's, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies and the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement will commit University resources to ensure the success and longevity of the program. 

"We anticipate this program will serve as a model for the University and the graduate community in general," said Roseanne Ford, associate vice president for research and graduate studies. "Quality mentoring is a critical component to promoting student success in graduate education, particularly for students from diverse backgrounds."

About U.Va.'s Graduate Student Diversity Programs
Graduate Student Diversity Programs, in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, was created as the result of a recommendation of the President's Commission on Diversity and Equity. Cheryl Burgan Evans joined the University as its first director of graduate student diversity programs in the spring of 2006.

About the Council of Graduate Schools
The Council of Graduate Schools (www.cgsnet.org) is an organization of nearly 500 institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada engaged in graduate education, research and the preparation of candidates for advanced degrees.  CGS member institutions award more than 90% of the doctoral degrees and over 75% of the master’s degrees in the U.S.  The organization’s mission is to improve and advance graduate education, which it accomplishes through advocacy in the federal policy arena, research, and the development and dissemination of best practices.  

About Peterson’s, A Nelnet Company
Peterson’s Nelnet, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nelnet, Inc., is a leading provider of online and print educational solutions for students, families, schools and educators in the areas of test preparation, admissions, financial aid and career guidance.