Graduate School attracts minority students

With an 18 percent increase in applications, the Graduate School experienced a record-breaking admissions season this year. The Graduate School was particularly successful in recruiting underrepresented minorities to its programs.

After receiving more than 7,400 applications — an all-time high — the Graduate School accepted only 15 percent of the pool last spring, setting another record in the process. Of the accepted students, 47 percent decided to matriculate this fall.

“We had what can only be characterized as an absolutely spectacular year,” Graduate School Dean Susan Hockfield said.

Unlike the admissions process for Yale College, the graduate school does not have a centralized admissions office. Instead, Yale’s 65 graduate departments and programs review applications separately.

The Graduate School had an especially successful year in recruiting underrepresented minorities — blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders. Minorities now compose 11 percent of the first-year class, an increase from last year’s figure of 7 percent.

Hockfield said the increase can be attributed to the Office for Diversity and Equal Opportunity, which travels to various college campuses and recruitment fairs in order to attract more minority applicants. The Graduate School began the initiative in 2000.

In addition to visiting a number of historically black colleges, representatives from the office also make trips to Native American colleges in Arizona and visit three Puerto Rican universities during the course of a year.

“We’re excited about what’s going on and we’re happy the University is giving us the opportunity to increase underrepresented minorities in the Graduate School,” said Shannon Bailey GRD ’05, a fellow for the office. “There are a lot of qualified people out there, and it’s a matter of not only us identifying them but also them identifying us and knowing what Yale University is.”

While the acceptance rate for minority students — 17 percent — was relatively close to the overall figure, the matriculation rate for those students was a staggering 64 percent. In addition, Hockfield said the recruiting success held across all academic disciplines, from the natural sciences to the humanities.

“What we’ve heard is that minority students tend not to want to come to Yale because they’re intimidated by an Ivy League school or because they don’t want to live in the Northeast, where they think the people are unfriendly,” said Lynn Cooley, director of the biological and biomedical sciences group — a consortium of 11 natural science departments. “But we want to show them that we welcome them, that people at Yale are actually friendly, and that we’ll train them well.”

For Denise Davis GRD ’08, Yale’s message worked. Davis said she was sold on Yale after attending a minority recruitment weekend where prospective students were able to stay over with current students and hear about their experiences at Yale and in New Haven.

“They introduced us to Yale and the city a bit more and really made us feel at home,” Davis said. “They told us that they felt really comfortable here because they have a subcommunity of their own while also being part of the larger Yale community.”

Bailey said that even though there has been a substantial rise in the number of underrepresented minorities, there is still much more work to be done.

“In reality, we’re just getting into doing this, so it’s a little too early to tell [how successful the program is],” Bailey said. “We just want to keep this thing going and form different partnerships with different universities.”

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