Junior Daniel Castaneda of UC Riverside will arrive at UC Davis on Wednesday (April 4) for a two-day visit to see if this is where he wants to pursue graduate studies in presidential history.
He is among nearly 50 juniors and seniors from California colleges and universities who are participating in the inaugural year of Envision UC Davis, a program to increase the diversity of graduate students at UC Davis.
“I’m excited to learn more about UC Davis and the opportunities here,” said Castaneda, who is double-majoring in history and public policy. The Fullerton resident identifies as Hispanic and is in the first generation of his family to attend college.
Prasant Mohapatra, vice provost of Graduate Education and dean of Graduate Studies, said California needs a diverse and increasingly skilled workforce to sustain its status as an economic powerhouse. "UC Davis is doing its part by giving some of California's most promising undergraduates the opportunity to conceptualize their academic journey and meet mentors who can provide the support they need to succeed," he said.
Kellie Butler, assistant dean of Graduate Studies and project lead, said the name of the event is taken from its premise. “If a student has an opportunity to see themselves — envision themselves — in the space, they’re more likely to apply,” she said.
Mixing with faculty, grad students
In its first year, Envision UC Davis is focused on disciplines in the College of Letters and Science. Butler said Graduate Studies and the college have put a priority on creating opportunities for the visiting students to meet and talk with faculty members and graduate students. More than 25 faculty and about a dozen graduate students are involved in the event.
In one of the first activities, the visiting students will participate in small roundtable discussions with graduate students on three broad topics: choosing a graduate school and program, student life and housing, and building diversity and community.
Other activities include receptions, departmental and lab tours, and watching the Grad Slam finals, a competition in which graduate students explain their research in three minutes or less for a general audience. Chancellor Gary S. May and Ralph J. Hexter, provost and executive vice chancellor, will also meet with the students.
Applicants found through other programs, events
Envision organizers invited applications by reaching out to students who are participating in programs that help historically underrepresented students prepare for graduate school and those who have attended events that aim to motivate them to pursue a graduate education.
Castaneda, the UC Riverside junior, received an email based on his participation in a California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education, which brought hundreds of high-achieving undergraduate and master’s students to California State University, Channel Islands, in November.
“The fact that I’m even considering graduate school is an exciting adventure,” he said.
Both national and campus statistics show that people of color are not well represented at the graduate level. According to the 2016 National Survey of Earned Doctorates, of the 35,720 doctoral recipients who were U.S. citizen and permanent residents, 71.4 percent identified as white, 8.6 percent identified as Asian, 7.1 percent as Hispanic or Latino, 6.6 percent as black or African American, and 0.3 percent as American Indian or Alaska Native.
Of the domestic graduate academic students at UC Davis in fall 2017, 54.9 percent identified as white, 21.8 percent as Asian, 12.8 percent as Hispanic or Latino, 4.5 percent as African American, and 0.9 as American Indian.
Modeled after Georgia Tech program
Butler said Chancellor May asked Graduate Studies to develop a program modeled after Focus at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he served as the dean of engineering before coming to UC Davis in 2017. At its most recent event in January, the Focus program brought nearly 200 high-achieving minority undergraduates and postdoctoral scholars to the Atlanta campus for four days to encourage them to choose Georgia Tech for the next stage of their academic career.
In collaboration with Academic Affairs and the Office of Academic Diversity, Butler said, the plan is to grow Envision UC Davis in the next two years to include all graduate programs, increase the number of participating students, and add prospective faculty and postdoctoral scholars, too.