A new program at the University of Utah aims to help African American doctoral students complete their programs and prepare for work after graduation.
It’s called The African American Doctoral Scholars Initiative and the mission is twofold: Help PhD students pay for research and travel costs with $5,000 dollar scholarships and create a community of African American peers and mentors to aid students in developing important writing, research and teaching skills.
Deniece Dortch, a post-doc research fellow for the College of Education, is running the initiative. With two masters and a doctoral degree she’s basically a grad school expert.
“Graduate school is not for the faint of heart," says Dortch. "It’s an enormous commitment both with your time and financially."
Dortch says it’s even more difficult for African American students at predominantly white colleges like the University of Utah. Not only can they feel alone but they lack a support system of peers and faculty who can relate to their experience.
Currently only 6% of doctoral graduates in the country are African American.
For that reason this initiative will connect a group of 10 African American PhD students together regardless of their field of study, to tutor and support each other. It mirrors Dortch’s own experience.
“The person who served as the best editor I ever had was a medical school student," Dortch says. "The person who taught me how to do a conference poster to present my research that was was an engineering student.”
The interdisciplinary approach of this program makes it the first of it’s kind in the country.
The deadline for current and accepted doctoral students is this Friday and the first cohort will begin meeting together in the Fall.