UNCG will invest a million dollars in a new program to promote inclusiveness and diversity among its graduate students. One million dollars of a $6 million anonymous gift to UNCG will endow the UNCG Graduate School Inclusiveness Awards.
Fellowships and smaller assistantships will go to outstanding master’s or doctoral students whose presence contributes to inclusiveness at the university. Each graduate program can nominate one student per year. Final selections will be made by the dean of the graduate school upon the recommendation of a faculty review committee. Recipients must be fully admitted to a graduate degree program and maintain a 3.0 grade point average.
“UNCG greatly appreciates the generosity of the anonymous donor that has permitted us to initiate these inclusiveness awards,” said Dr. James Petersen, dean of the Graduate School. “They will help to continue broad access to our graduate programs as public universities are being forced to raise tuition levels. The Graduate School will pursue additional gifts to continue to grow the endowment to support inclusiveness in our graduate programs.”
Inclusiveness is one of five central values in the UNCG Strategic Plan 2009-14. This document calls for a commitment to inclusiveness.
UNCG has built on a tradition of commitment to access and diversity. Its origins in 1891 can be traced to a crusade for the education of women by the university’s founder and first president, Charles Duncan McIver.
By fall semester 2008, nearly one-quarter (23.7 percent) of UNCG graduate students were from underrepresented ethnic groups (African-Americans, American Indians, Asian/Pacific Islanders and Hispanics). In 2008, the majority of graduate students (56.9 percent) were between the ages of 25 and 39, but nearly 10 percent were 50 and older.
The university has defined “inclusiveness” broadly to include a variety of life experiences that would increase the diversity of experiences of students in graduate programs. These factors might include low-income background, a history of overcoming disadvantage or discrimination, nontraditional age for a student, membership in underrepresented group in a field or discipline, status as a first-generation graduate student, cultural differences such as may arise from being foreign-born or raised within a distinct culture, and unique work or service experience.
The Council of Graduate Schools, a national organization that promotes the advancement of graduate education and research, has called for strengthening diversity and inclusiveness efforts in graduate study as a central element in a national talent development policy. Members of underrepresented groups are much less likely than others in the population to complete graduate degrees.
The CGS reported that in 2005 nearly 40 percent of elementary and secondary students in the United States were from underrepresented groups. However, only 12 percent of research doctorates and 10 percent of doctorates in STEM fields awarded in 2006 went to members of underrepresented groups.
The $6 million anonymous gift, the largest in UNCG’s history, came in early 2009. The donor designated $5 million for student aid.
By Michelle Hines
Photograph by Chris English.