Programs ease transition

by Kelly Hildebrandt

When David Floyd came to the University from a college one-tenth its size, it was a shock to be in a big school and a big city.
Two years ago, Floyd came from Georgia’s Albany State University, a historically black college of about 3,500 students, to the University’s graduate school for educational policy and administration.
But he had help getting used to such a big transition. The Common Ground Consortium and the Community of Scholars Program were available to help him meet other students around campus and get him involved with the University and his department.
The Community of Scholars Program recently received a three-year grant from the Bush Foundation for about $750,000, which will help fund discussion sessions, seminars and a mentorship program.
The program was developed last year by Dennis Clayton, the director of equal opportunity in the Graduate School, as a retention program to help integrate under-represented students into the University community.
“When you have a forum, it gives you a sense of alignment,” Floyd said about the program.
It joins a plethora of other programs such as the Common Ground Consortium and other groups like the African American Learning Resource Center and the American Indian Learning Resource Center, which cater to specific student groups.
The program currently has about 60 members and is open to under-represented graduate students who feel they would benefit from the program, said Noro Andriantiana, associate director of the program.
It offers opportunities for students to learn about the University, including seminars and lunch meetings every other week to discuss issues important to them, Andriantiana said.
Floyd said the discussions often start with the large population of the campus and move on to other topics such as research opportunities and how to effectively interview.
The seminars and group discussions include anything from how to write a dissertation and how to receive funding for research to how large the University is, she said.
Many of the services the program offers are in collaboration with other groups, including the University Alumni Association and the University Counseling and Consulting Services, Andriantiana said.
“We don’t want to reinvent services that already exist,” she said. “We want to collaborate with existing programs and expand them.”
Although Clayton said the group discussions only draw about five people per session, he hopes when the program gets up and running more students will attend.
Andriantiana said she realizes students won’t be able to attend all the discussions and seminars, especially if they don’t relate specifically to the students’ educational needs.
“We hope even after three years of funding it will continue to be a strong program,” she said.
Incoming graduate students who receive fellowships will also be able to participate in the summer institute, Clayton said.
At the summer institute, which will be held for the first time this year, students will take lower level classes like statistics so they can focus on their graduate studies when they start in the fall.
Not only does the Community of Scholars Program help students while they’re at the University, but it also helps recruit them to the University.
Derek Maness, assistant to the dean of the Graduate School, said minority students are often concerned about what kind of programs universities offer under-represented students.
“Retention programs are vital to our recruitment programs,” Maness said.