Opening academia widely

first_imgFor any student, the decision to pursue a Ph.D. represents a major academic challenge and a multiyear commitment.For students from under-represented groups, however, the challenges don’t always end at the classroom door. From combatting racial and gender preconceptions to justifying to family and friends the decision to pursue a Ph.D. rather than a professional degree, many face hurdles that can dissuade them from even applying to graduate school in the first place.In an effort to dispel the notion that graduate school and careers in academia at elite institutions can be beyond the reach of minority students, Harvard last week co-hosted the second Ivy Plus Symposium.With support from the president’s office and the deans of the Business School, Law School, Kennedy School of Government, and the School of Public Health, the weekend event, co-hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-sponsored by a group of Ivy Plus institutions, attracted 130 undergraduates and 19 program directors from across the country, and was aimed at giving them the chance to get an up-close-and-personal view of graduate student life from current Ph.D. candidates; to network with nearly 60 faculty members, including 20 Harvard faculty, alumni, and administrators; and to get to know each other.“We and other top universities suffer from the perception that pursuing a graduate degree at our institutions is an unattainable goal,” said Sheila Thomas, assistant dean for diversity and minority affairs, who, along with Stephanie Parsons, helped to organize the symposium.  “The sponsoring institutions conceived of this symposium to break down this wall.  We wanted to provide an opportunity for our faculty and the students attending to engage with each other around their scholarship.”While increasing diversity at the graduate-school level is a national priority, the symposium is just the latest of Harvard’s efforts to attract greater numbers of minority students.When he was appointed in 2008, then-Dean Allan M. Brandt made increasing diversity among graduate students a priority, and led the transformation of the recruitment, admission, and retention efforts at Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).Brandt was instrumental in enhancing student experiences at Harvard, through the adoption of best practices in graduate advising and mentoring, increases to the funding package offered to graduate students, and the creation of programs that help graduate students navigate a challenging academic job market.“The recent Ivy Plus Symposium is but one example of Harvard’s ongoing efforts to assure the great diversity of our graduate programs,” Brandt said. “We have found that diversity is essential to the excellence of our programs, which are committed to preparing the next generation of researchers and scholars, pushing the frontiers of knowledge across the globe.”Under the leadership of current GSAS Dean Xiao-Li Meng, the Whipple V.N. Jones Professor of Statistics, that commitment has been continued as faculty have been encouraged to engage in practices designed to give students — particularly those whose academic background may be unfamiliar to faculty — equal footing during the admissions process.In recent years, practices like those have paid large dividends. In the three years since Thomas’ position was created, the number of minority students admitted to GSAS has steadily increased, and the percentage of incoming students who are under-represented minorities has more than doubled, from 5 to 11 percent of the students matriculating and from 7 to 16 percent of U.S. students entering GSAS.“One of the goals of this symposium is to bring together these potential future applicants with the faculty from all our Ivy Plus schools,” Thomas said. “Whether they apply to Harvard or not, this is about allowing them to gain a different perspective on this place, and for our faculty to get a different perspective on students who attend schools they may not recognize.”Equally important, Thomas said, the symposium offered a chance for program directors from a host of universities to connect with faculty and administrators.“It’s important for our faculty to have those conversations with program directors, and vice versa,” Thomas said. “We want program directors to feel comfortable advising their students to apply to our schools. But it’s also important for our faculty to understand what students are learning as undergrads, and what kind of research experiences they’re having. It’s that exchange of information that builds important relationships.”While Harvard has made supporting a diverse student body a priority, those efforts aren’t limited to the students on campus.In an effort to encourage undergraduates to consider pursuing a Ph.D., Harvard has developed two programs aimed at giving students hands-on research experience: the Summer Research Opportunities at Harvard (SROH), a 10-week research internship for non-Harvard undergrads in life sciences, humanities, and social sciences; and the GSAS Research Scholar Initiative, a post-baccalaureate program that provides up to two years of individualized research and academic training for people who are considering a Ph.D., but are not ready for admittance.For students such as Kyrah Daniels, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Harvard’s Department of African and African American Studies who took part in a question-and-answer session with prospective graduate students, the opportunity to attend the conference was too important to pass up.“I think it’s tremendously important for Harvard to host events like this,” she said. “I wish I had something like this, because I felt so alone in my own grad-school-application process. I felt like I didn’t have anybody to look up to with regard to what the actual nuts and bolts of the process would be like. So I’m grateful I have the opportunity to meet young students who are interested in grad school, because they’re going to be my colleagues one day. And I’m also excited to meet people who want to push research further.”While Harvard has made strides in efforts to recruit greater numbers of minority students into the graduate ranks, Thomas said there is still more to do to dispel the notion that grad school remains off limits to all but a few.“In the context of Harvard, we have an even higher bar to clear,” Thomas said. “From our point of view, Stanford, Yale, and the other Ivies are our peers. But from the outside … there is still a perception that Harvard is at a different level, so it’s even more important for us to make it seem like this is a place that you can come. If you decide this is a place you want to be, if this is the place for you, you can be here.”last_img read more

CWI continues to support the PCL

first_imgCRICKET West Indies (CWI) continues to streamline and improve the Professional Cricket League (PCL) in the region for the sake of development of the sport.The board’s initial arrangement was to fund the league for a couple years and then let the territories take over but according to CWI director and president of the T&T Cricket Board (TTCB), Azim Bassarath, “CWI has and will continue to take care of the PCL financially, in order to keep the players employed and to offer them the comfort of knowing that there is a salary there for them and they can concentrate on their cricket.“We have seen so much positives come out of this arrangement that it has been one of the better programmes put in place in West Indies cricket for a very long time now.The idea which was initially touted by the president of CWI, Dave Cameron, has really taken off and with stiff economic times being experienced all over the Caribbean, the territories found it difficult to find investors.“This by no means indicated that the PCL was not good. In fact, having discussions with investors in my capacity as president of the TTCB, many of them have indicated that the PCL is what would take West Indies cricket right back up the ladder.They have been warning though that we must continue to work the model all the time to make sure we have the right equation in place and we have been doing that at the CWI.”This year, the PCL will enter its fourth season, having bowled off in 2014. “We are looking towards another good season in the PCL and what is great to see is that the selectors are paying attention to the players who go out there week after week and represent their franchise.The path is clear for our players. All they need to do is put down the hard work, go out there and perform well and they will be playing for the West Indies.”The six franchises, hailing from each of the West Indies territories, compete in the Regional Four-Day Competition yearly.They are also automatically included in the Regional Super50 Competition, which takes place during the first quarter of each year.These competitions are to not only prepare the regional players, but also give the selectors an opportunity to efficiently select the Test and One-Day International squads respectively.The franchises are: Guyana Jaguars, Barbados Pride, Leeward Islands Hurricanes, T&T Red Force, Windward Islands Volcanoes, Jamaica Scorpions.last_img read more

Danielle Lao makes good first impression for USC women’s tennis team

first_imgThe two-week long Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships at the Riviera Tennis Club came to a close this past weekend with an impressive run from the USC women’s tennis team.Freshman Danielle Lao debuted in her first tournament with the Women of Troy by cruising through the prequalifying and qualifying rounds to advance to the main draw. In the first round on Oct. 8, Lao kept up the momentum and eliminated Texas’ Aeriel Ellis 7-6 (4), 6-2 for her seventh straight win.“I didn’t feel much pressure to do well, but I did feel some anxiety representing USC for the first time,” Lao said. “Everyone wants to make a good first impression, and I’m just glad I was able to do that and not let the gravity of the event prevent me from playing well.”The next day, however, Lao was ousted by Tennessee’s Caitlin Whoriskey in a tough three-set match 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.Meanwhile, sophomore Alison Ramos shrugged off an early first-round loss in the main draw and rebounded with two straight wins in the consolation bracket. Ramos defeated Tennessee’s Natalie Pluskota 7-6 (5), 6-2 to start things off, then secured a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Northwestern’s Maria Mosolova to reach the semifinals, before being knocked out by Fresno State’s Anastasia Petukhova the next day.The Women of Troy have almost two weeks to prepare for their next tournament. They will begin play Oct. 22 for the 2009 Wilson/ITA Southwest Regional Championships in San Diego.last_img read more