Submitted by Anna Rzewnicki on Friday Aug 01, 2014.

Why attend graduate school? 

That is one of the questions discussed by participants in the G-School Project presented in spring 2014 targeting students in Poole College’s undergraduate programs who are members of under-represented populations. About one-fourth of the college’s undergraduate students are Asian, black or African American, Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native, or members of other diverse populations.

Led by three staff members in the college’s Office of Undergraduate Programs (OUP) and funded by a diversity mini-grant from NC State’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED), the three-part program was developed in response to student observations regarding faculty diversity.

“Our underrepresented students were commenting that they did not see many of the faculty ‘who look like me’,” said Melusian Wright, one of the college’s professional academic advisors. “One way to resolve that is to help the students understand the path to a doctoral degree and a teaching career, and to challenge them to see graduate school as a part of their future,” she said, adding: “We want to give our students the tools they need to understand why they should consider graduate school as well as what their opportunities would be upon completion."

The G-School Project’s organizers – Wright; Roshaunda Breeden, coordinator of diversity and student involvement; and Robert Sandruck, director of international programs – aimed to have 15 students participate in the pilot program, and achieved that goal. “We wanted to start small,” Wright said.

The program included panel discussions led by professionals on staff at NC State as well as in corporate positions. Three sessions were held over the course of three months in spring 2014.

In the opening session on February 28, participants were asked if they aspire to attend graduate school. Panelists took the conversation deeper by discussing why the students should consider graduate school; the discussion continued during a concluding networking session. Panelists were:

  • Michael Graham, a student in Poole College’s Jenkins Master of Accounting Program,
  • Troy Pinkins, a Poole College staff member and a student in the master of business administration program at Strayer University,
  • Debra Taiwo, a certified lean leader at Progress Energy; and
  • Janelle Tracey, a student in Poole College’s Jenkins MBA Program.

Taiwo and Tracey spoke from their own experiences on another panel, along with:

  • Lauren Brown, associate director of undergraduate advising in Poole College and an NC State doctoral program graduate,
  • Thomas Easley, director of community diversity in the College of Natural Resources, and 
  • Brett Locklear, director of graduate recruiting at the Graduate School and also an NC State alumn.

The discussion on March 28 focused on applying to and financing graduate school, with breakout sessions for those interested in Poole College’s Jenkins Master of Accounting and MBA programs, as well as those undecided about graduate school options.

Strategies for success were discussed at the final session on April 25. In addition to Tracey, panelists on this day were:

  • Christina Moss, a Poole College alumna with a bachelor’s in business administration with a marketing concentration, now at CISCO,
  • Otis Ricks, a Poole College alumn with a bachelor’s in accounting and an information technology concentration and a master’s in accounting, now with Ernst & Young, and
  • Marjan Orang, a fourth-year doctoral student in the Graduate Economics Program at NC State.

"Participant feedback was quite positive," Wright said. One of the undergraduate student participants, Jamel Lewis, said he found the program “very informative and insightful. This definitely opened my eyes and made think more about graduate school.”

Lewis was one of the students whose comments about diversity among the faculty led the advisors to create the G-School Project.

“I never thought that the meeting that we students had with the OUP office would bring forth anything, but I am happy that we have started something. I am also proud that I can say that I had something to do with this initiative," he said.

Another student participant, Patrick Todjalla said, “I am truly grateful for the G-school Project. These sessions helped me understand the process of applying to a graduate school, and definitely put me on the right path toward accomplishing my higher education goals. I always knew I wanted to pursue an MBA but I was uninformed about how to proceed. And the G-School Project has done it for me. I am glad I was invited to attend and I hope this initiative will be extended to many other students in the future.” 

Wright said the undergraduate advising staff plans to offer the workshop series again next year.

Breeden said others - faculty, staff and students - who might have a diversity related project in mind should consider applying for a grant from NC State's Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity. "The OIED grants make initiatives like this possible,” she said, noting that applications for diversity mini-grants for the coming year are due by 5 p.m. on September 30.


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