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New graduate students at student resources fair
Graduate student orientation included a student resources fair, where almost 60 campus and community organizations shared information.

More than 2,500 new graduate students are beginning their work and studies – joining other graduate students campus-wide as important contributors to research, teaching and outreach.

Out of 18,057 graduate student applications for 2016-17, 5,174 applicants were accepted for admission. Final enrollment figures will not be available until later in the fall semester but as of August 22, the share of graduate students identifying themselves as a race or ethnicity other than Caucasian is 43 percent. Other race or ethnicities include: Asian, 13.9 percent; two or more races, 10.2 percent; African American, 6.9 percent; Latino or Latina, 6.8 percent; American Indian or Alaska Native, less than 1 percent; and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, less than 1 percent.

An estimated 13 percent of the new graduate students at Carolina are international students. The top countries of origin for new international graduate students are China, India, the Republic of Korea and Japan. “It is really important as a grad student to try and devote some time and energy, when you first move here, to seeking out a bigger community for yourself on campus, beyond just your specific program,” said Sertanya Reddy, a doctoral student in geography whose home country is South Africa. (Reddy and other graduate students provide helpful information to new international graduate students.)

Graduate students make up an estimated 28 percent of the University’s student population.

“Some of our world’s greatest innovations begin in U.S. graduate programs,” said Steve Matson, dean of The Graduate School. “Carolina’s graduate students, working with their faculty mentors, pursue discoveries that have great promise. They contribute to our University and the state in many other important ways, including serving as terrific role models and mentors for undergraduates, and leading outreach efforts that benefit people and communities throughout our state.”

The Graduate School presents GEAB Impact Awards each year to graduate students and recent graduate alumni whose research has a direct impact on North Carolina. Award recipients for 2016 have made discoveries focused on improving oral health for children, providing citizens with better access to data on concentrated animal feeding operations, enhancing the health of the state’s coastal ecosystems, using leading-edge technology to improve medication compliance and reducing osteoarthritis-related disability.

The School of Government’s master of public administration (MPA) program trains future public service leaders and reports a trend of increasing numbers of N.C. residents enrolling in the MPA@UNC program. On average, the School reported, state residents make up about one-third of the cohort, but this contingency has been growing: In the four 2016 cohorts, the state population was 69 percent for the January cohort, 33 percent in May (closer to average), 59 percent in August, and 63 percent in September.

Lorrie Fair begins as an MPA@UNC student in the September term. A UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduate alumna, she was a member of the women’s soccer team, played on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (1999 Women’s World Cup Champion and won two Olympic medals) and is program director for the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project. She also volunteers as an athlete and coach for the U.S. State Department Sports Envoy Program.

The School of Education’s new master’s degree in Educational Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship gets under way with its first cohort this fall. The MEITE program is designed to provide students with a core set of skills needed to create educational innovations that are grounded in the learning sciences. It will prepare students to design and build the learning environments of the future and provide the foundation needed to help bring those innovations to market. An internship within a Research Triangle Park-area educational organization is a central part of the program.

UNC-Chapel Hill graduate students are increasingly seeking out internships and other professional development opportunities, said Heidi Harkins, executive director of The Graduate School-based Professional Science Master’s (PSM) programs. The PSM programs are offering courses on crafting effective workplace communications and presenting complex topics using easy-to-understand language in professional settings. Plans are under way to develop online sections of these courses, based on strong interest from PSM and doctoral students. “Graduate students are increasingly aware of the need for professionally oriented coursework,” Harkins said, “because these courses are differentiators when they are looking for jobs.”

Graduate students contribute essential outreach on campus and beyond. They have direct contact with undergraduates in the classroom as teaching assistants. Through the Pre-Graduate Education Advising Program, they serve as advisers to undergraduates seeking information about graduate degrees.

Doctoral students and fellowship recipients within The Graduate School’s Royster Society of Fellows mentor undergraduate Carolina Covenant Scholars who are considering graduate school. Through Stigma Free Carolina – an initiative created by three Royster fellows – undergraduates and other members of the campus community receive information designed to reduce stigma associated with mental health treatment.

The Royster Society of Fellows, now in its 20th year, attracts exceptionally talented graduate students from around the world and supports them with generous financial funding, interdisciplinary programming, professional development and travel funding. In addition to the five-year fellowships, the Royster Society also provides one-year dissertation fellowships. Almost 700 students have been selected as Royster fellows since 1996.

The Graduate School also provides Weiss Urban Livability Fellowships to first-year graduate students who seek to improve urban livability. Nine students received 2016-17 Weiss fellowships, including Travis Moe. A graduate student in the School of Social Work, Moe will focus on community led sustainable development within his research. He has traveled to more than 50 countries, and his outreach includes developing and building a green community center in The Gambia and volunteering with children in the slums of Dakar.

In addition to the Royster Society of Fellows and the Weiss Urban Livability Fellowships, The Graduate School is providing the following opportunities to graduate students for the 2016-17 academic year:

  • Merit Awards: Thirty-six first-year master’s students and 57 first-year doctoral students received these awards, which assist academic programs campus-wide in recruiting students to Carolina.
  • Native American Incentive Grants: Two doctoral students received these grants, focused on making graduate education more possible and affordable for Native American students.
  • North Carolina Excellence Fellowships: Nine students received these fellowships, focused on increasing opportunities and diversity within the doctoral student population.

The Graduate School has markedly expanded its Diversity and Student Success program to include five initiatives focused on academic success and degree completion for diverse populations of graduate students. They are: the Initiative for Minority Excellence, which works with graduate students of color; Carolina Grad Student F1RSTS (first-generation graduate students); Military-Affiliated Grads; Global Grads (international graduate students); and Queer Grads (the LGBTQ+ graduate student community).

The inaugural Diversity and Student Success Speaker Series kicked off this fall on Sept. 19. Cherrel Miller Dyce, PhD, MSW, presented a talk titled “Collaboration, Collectivity and Consciousness: Retaining Graduate Students of Color.” Dyce is an assistant professor in the Elon University School of Education and a faculty fellow for the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education.

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