The Graduate School: Inclusive excellence


Michigan State University’s Graduate School operates from and within a framework of inclusive excellence, where programs and initiatives are designed to integrate diversity and quality into all of its efforts.

Over the past semester, Interim Dean Judith Stoddart and I discussed a number of examples that illustrate how effectively that framework continues to serve the Grad School in its planning. I’ve asked her to share a few of those here, so more in the campus community can learn about them.

We are deep in application and recruitment season for the new cohort of MSU graduate students. This week the Graduate School will begin reviewing nominations for the University Distinguished and University Enrichment Fellowships, awarded to the top domestic applicants to doctoral and master of fine arts programs. One of the key characteristics we look for in these files is potential to make an impact, both in a field of research and in local and global communities.

That potential is certainly playing out among our current University Distinguished and Enrichment Fellows. University Enrichment Fellow Jon Wargo (Teacher Education) was named by the International Literacy Association as one of the country’s “30 Under 30” trailblazers who are changing the future of literacy education. Jon was recognized for his work on language and literacy practices among LGBTQ youth of color. And four Fellows are making their mark on campus through serving on the Council of Graduate Students’ (COGS) executive board: Lynette Guzman (Math Education), Dee Jordan (Geography), Maurice Atkinson (Accounting), and Charlie Loelius (Physics).

We are also reviewing applications for the 2016 Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP). This intensive ten-week on-campus experience pairs MSU faculty research mentors with a diverse group of college juniors and seniors interested in academic careers. Through seminars, professional development activities, and an extended mentored research project, these students will hone the skills needed to succeed in graduate school. In November three 2015 MSU SROP participants won top honors at the prestigious Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in the fields of Neuroscience, Cancer Biology, and Developmental Biology and Genetics. Several SROP alumni are now University Distinguished and Enrichment Fellows in MSU doctoral programs.

They are also active participants in MSU’s NSF-funded Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), a multi-disciplinary learning community committed to the development of a professoriate that reflects the demographic profile of our nation. The group’s monthly “chalk talks”—where graduate students practice communicating the impacts of their research plainly and without technology—are a model for how to bridge disciplinary divides and create vital intellectual community.  A group of AGEP students will use those communication skills in their February trip to Capitol Hill, where they will explain the impact of their research to Michigan’s elected representatives. Current AGEP students also play an important role in the SROP program, both as mentors and as recruiters for the next generation of diverse leaders on MSU’s campus.