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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has ranked among the top five of public universities in the country for doctorates awarded to Black or African American doctoral recipients for the fifth year in a row, according to the National Science Foundation’s annual Survey of Earned Doctorates. 

The survey takes a five-year look at the numbers of doctoral recipients who have received their degrees from hundreds of accredited institutions in the United States; this year’s data is for the academic years 2017-2021. 

  • For Black or African American doctoral recipients, the University ranks in the top five for doctorate-granting institutions for public universities (top two percent overall).  
  • For students who identify as more than one race, the University ranked as #15 overall (top four percent overall). 

The National Science Foundation also reported that, in 2021, the University was second overall in graduates in health sciences and tenth in biological and biomedical sciences. 

Beth Mayer-Davis, dean of The Graduate School, said the School strives to support its nearly 9,000 graduate students whose diversity of background and life experience enrich the classroom and beyond. 

“It is critical that we build community so we can be a University in service for all,” she said. “Creating a culture of care at Carolina among our graduate students is all part of the student experience as they reach the milestone of graduation.” 

Student support from surviving to thriving

The Graduate School’s Diversity and Student Success (DSS) program supports a variety of graduate and professional students who seek to build community. 

Brionca Taylor (‘17 MA; ‘22 Ph.D.) studied sociology at UNC-Chapel Hill and works at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute as a research manager. During her time at Carolina, she participated in the Initiative for Minority Excellence, part of DSS, which strives to support underrepresented graduate students. 

A group of people wearing doctoral regalia smile
Brionca Taylor at the 2023 doctoral hooding ceremony.

I started attending IME very early on during my first year on the recommendation of the only other Black woman who was an advanced doctoral student in my department,” she said. “It was great to meet people who shared my identities and background from other departments across Carolina.” 

During her time at Carolina, however, she found a support system — and rest — to be crucial.  

“People in the IME community were there to celebrate with me after every time I problem solved something that may have seemed small to folks who were familiar and comfortable with academia, like having a difficult conversation with my advisor or emailing a random researcher to expand my network,” she said. 

She also learned to advocate for her own mental health and well-being.  

“Graduate students may feel like they should always be working,” she said. “But our minds and bodies need breaks.” 

According to The Graduate School, 10 percent of newly enrolled graduate students identify as Black or African American. More than 1,500 graduate and professional students who identify as Black, African American or as multiple races are currently enrolled in graduate and professional programs at UNC-Chapel Hill as of fall 2022.   

The Graduate School will host its annual doctoral hooding ceremony on May 13, 2023. 

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