The University of Illinois recognizes and embraces the power in diversity—it is invaluable to the innovation and excellence of our scholars. Traditionally, graduate-level enrollment of ethnic and racial minorities, as well as women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines has not properly reflected the demographics of contemporary society. Addressing this critical need, the Graduate College has taken the initiative to broaden participation in graduate education by offering resources and opportunities to students from historically underrepresented populations. The initiative strives to inspire students from diverse backgrounds to join our dynamic community of scholars and to help make their graduate experience more rewarding. By utilizing these resources, students at all junctures of graduate school will be better equipped to realize their full potential.
Talented students with diverse experiences are recruited to the University of Illinois by offering them opportunities to engage in our campus and their field of study, while building meaningful relationships.
The Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) at Illinois brings highly competitive undergraduate students from across the U.S. and its territories to our campus, for a paid, eight-week introduction to graduate study. SROP students explore careers in research by taking part on a research team and in a research writing course, and engage in many other activities to interact socially with faculty, administrators, and other undergraduates.
ASPIRE unites underrepresented students from across the nation by bringing them to the Urbana-Champaign campus for a three-day visit early in the application process. Departments at Illinois showcase the quality and strength of their graduate programs, to ultimately recruit these students. It is important that students become familiar early on with the dynamic community of underrepresented scholars on the University of Illinois campus, as well as opportunities to engage in research and explore their fields of interest.
As students embark upon this next phase of career development, adjusting can be challenging. The University of Illinois is dedicated to supporting a transition that is personally, socially, and academically profitable.
To assist with the transition, the Community of Scholars (COS) Campus Visit Program unites newly admitted students with their admitting graduate programs, with peers among perspective students in other units, and with current Illinois graduate students during a three-day orientation to graduate study at the University of Illinois. COS connects a diverse community of underrepresented scholars to enhance a collective spirit of enthusiasm for our campus in the spring, prior to matriculation. Visiting students attend research presentations in an area of study and also ask current Illinois scholars about graduate student life. Through networking and gaining a better sense of the Illinois campus, students are able to better understand how graduate study at the University of Illinois can support their short and long-term goals.
Once students accept an offer of admission, the Summer Pre-Doctoral Institute (SPI) offers incoming graduates an advanced opportunity to become quickly prepared for the rigors and culture of their graduate program during the summer prior to the start of their graduate studies at Illinois. This paid, eight-week orientation and research experience provides an opportunity to work with a summer research advisor or faculty mentor in their department. A series of seminars additionally provide a foundation from which to begin dissertation research and further acquaint scholars with expectations of their graduate programs. COS and SPI address academic, social and cultural factors that are important to graduate student success.
The Graduate College provides additional resources that reach beyond assigned academic research.
Graduate College Fellowships increase the enrollment of outstanding students from populations historically underrepresented in graduate study. The awards provide 1-year ($12,000) of support for incoming master’s students and 1-3 years of support ($20,000-$25,000 per year) for incoming doctoral students.
The Office of External Fellowships assists Illinois graduate students in competing for external grants and fellowships, helping to lessen any financial barriers that graduate study may present.
To expand connections across campus communities, Grad Mentoring @ Illinois offers a mentoring network that facilitates relationships to promote inclusion and retention of traditionally underrepresented students. By matching students and faculty, the mentoring network offers students knowledge and experience that support the broader negotiations of graduate student status while on campus.
Fostering Alliances beyond Illinois
To further enhance educational opportunities for underrepresented students, the Graduate College launched Illinois Partners for Diversity, an annual summit connecting administrators and faculty of Minority Serving Institutions throughout the U.S., including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Fostering inter-institutional collaboration, IPD aims to develop innovative strategies to bridge cohorts of underrepresented racial minority students into graduate programs.
The Graduate College has made a priority of addressing the limited pool of students from populations historically underrepresented in graduate study by offering opportunities for visiting, newly admitted, and current graduate students at the University of Illinois. Exposure to graduate school practices, as well as opportunities to network with other students and faculty will better equip underrepresented students for graduate achievement. A diverse community of graduate scholars strengthens creativity throughout the learning process and prepares future leaders to work within increasingly diverse and global settings.