Date: August 26, 2011
To: All Interested Colleagues
From: Henry T. Frierson, Associate Vice President and Dean of the Graduate School ([log in to unmask])
Re: The Initiation of the HBCU-UF Master's to PhD Pathway Project to Increase Doctoral Student Diversity
The University of Florida (UF) has entered into collaborative relationships with twelve key graduate-based historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to increase the number of underrepresented men and women enrolled in and graduating from PhD programs at UF. The intent is to draw from a pool of students not ordinarily seen as a primary source for PhD students. The project, known as the HBCU-UF Masterís to PhD Pathway Project, may subsequently serve as a model for other programs with the same goal to identify "untapped diamonds."
The premise behind the HBCU-UF Master's to PhD Pathway Project is that there are students in masterís programs who may not have traditional undergraduate credentials making them attractive as PhD prospects, but do have fundamental characteristics that would make them successful PhD students and subsequent PhD recipients. These characteristics would include maturity, perseverance, reliability, intellectual curiosity, clear rational thinking, academic achievement at the masterís level, and the determination and internal motivation to achieve. The purpose of this project is to identify such enrolled masterís students via their faculty members, assess their willingness to pursue doctoral studies and involve those, who are willing, in a project that will provide a pathway to successful doctoral studies and subsequent PhD degrees.
It bears noting that this program would not substitute, in any manner, for continued efforts to attract undergraduate and masterís students with strong traditional credentials. Unquestionably, UF wants to attract students with the strongest academic credentials, but there are students who are robust candidates for doctoral studies in masterís program who as undergraduates may not have exhibited the traditional academic credentials usually desired but have become top caliber master's students by all accounts. The purpose of this project is to more readily identify and prepare a pathway to doctoral studies for those "untapped diamonds."
Of further note, the focus will be on Pathway prospects in departments with master's-only programs. Students in departments with accompanying PhD programs would not be targeted for the Pathway Project as those departments would likely want to transition their most promising masterís students into their own doctoral programs.
The type of student most likely identified as a Pathway Project participant would probably be a student who had, for example, an undergraduate GPA below 3.2, and is now enrolled in a masterís program for the primary purpose of increasing and advancing his/her job prospects, or to enhance his/her chance of a promotion within a current job. The thought of pursuing a PhD would have unlikely occurred to most. Pathway Project prospects in master's programs would be students who have found the graduate education process exciting and have excelled therein. Their level of success and higher order thinking would be evident to their professors who would then identify such students as prospects for the project.
Faculty at the participating institutions will be responsible for identifying students they believe will succeed in UF doctoral programs. For students identified, a committee of faculty members responsible for selecting students to participate in the Pathway Project at their institution would review the studentsí records, the recommending comments of faculty members, and gather input from others to determine if the students are indeed good Pathway Project prospects at their respective institutions.
Identified Pathway prospects would be informed by the recommending faculty or their advisors. If the prospects are interested in pursuing a PhD, they would be designated as UF Pathway participants. Partnering schools will inform UF's Graduate School of those students who affirm their interest and were selected by the faculty committee. The UF Graduate School will use the student information to identify "UF faculty advisors" who will provide guidance and advice to the students pertinent to UF and communicate with the students' master's advisors.
Once the students are listed as official Pathway Project participants, communications with the UF Graduate School will begin and will continue until the students graduate from UF with their PhD degrees. Communications between the students' master's advisors and their UF external advisors will occur to ensure that proper paths are taken to enhance their admissions into their selected PhD programs. Communications between the masterís granting programs and the UF Graduate School will occur continuously.
Pathway master's students will make two invited visits to the UF campus to meet with Graduate School staff, graduate coordinators, departmental faculty, and current PhD students. They will also meet Pathway students from other institutions. Some students may have opportunities to participate at UF in summer research related to their master's work. Pathway students enrolled in UF PhD programs will receive stipend, tuition, and health insurance support as long as they are in good academic standing and making expected progress toward the PhD degree.
Importantly, in addition to the Pathway Project, every effort will be made to continually recruit and attract to UF PhD programs those students who from the outset are standouts as undergraduate and master's students. To reiterate, however, the purpose of the Pathway Project is to identify students who might ordinarily be ignored because they are not viewed as typical students actively recruited for doctoral studies, but indeed are truly untapped diamonds.
For more information about the HBCU-UF Master's to PhD Pathway Project, along with a copy of this message, in PDF format, please click on this link: