Solving some of today’s most complex problems like cancer, global warming and unlocking the power of quantum physics will take a lot of great minds with different expertise and perspectives. A big part of the formula for success will come from top-notch graduate students working alongside faculty at universities across the nation.
To help UCF get there, the university is looking to increase its graduate student population to 10,000 students by 2020. The College of Graduate Studies has launched several initiatives to get there including the Diverse Academic Opportunities Program, which focuses on doctoral students.
“Our goal is to provide opportunities to increase the diversity of incoming PhD students,” says Devon Jensen, Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies. “Faculty and graduate students push the limits of our current understanding within all the different fields of study available at UCF, and in doing so, graduate students are central to UCF’s mission of contributing to our Global community.”
Jensen says the university works hard to provide on campus visits for prospective undergraduate students before they apply, but there are no equivalent programs for prospective graduate students. Studies show that it is just as important for graduate students to visit campus during the application process, Jensen says.
That’s one reason the Diverse Academic Opportunities Program launched last year to attract top-notch diverse graduate candidates. The program offers candidates an opportunity to spend two jam-packed days at UCF, touring campus, visiting programs of interest, attending panels and meeting with faculty and current students. Candidates also have the opportunity to sit in on classes and learn how to submit competitive applications.
UCF covers all associated costs with the trip, allowing students who had not previously considered UCF to experience the campus and programs first hand. This year, 73 students applied, and 25 students representing an array of ages, ethnicity, and gender were invited to participate in the program earlier this month. Last year of the 14 students who participated seven applied to UCF and four were admitted.
Tiera Watson, a prospective student from Mississippi with many options for graduate school visited to get a look at UCF’s clinical psychology. She says she was impressed.
“UCF wasn’t initially on my radar, but now it definitely is,” she says.
Louis Gonzales, another prospective student from Atlanta, Georgia, had never been to Florida before, but was drawn to UCF because of its partnership with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The NSF-funded facility houses the largest fully functioning radio telescope in the world. He was excited to have the opportunity to meet with the physics faculty and get a feel for life on campus.
“I’ve done other programs like these before, and this is one of the best because everyone has been very professional and very nice,” Gonzales said. “Everything has been so organized. So, I really like it and I really like the school.”