Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences hopes to diversify its doctoral programs by expanding research opportunities for recent college graduates considering pursuing a Ph.D.
The University’s existing post-baccalaureate program in the biomedical and biological sciences was supplemented this academic year by a similar second program for students in the humanities, social and physical sciences. The addition of the Emerging Scholars Initiative program represents an expansion of a year-long program which provides recent college graduates with financial support, campus housing and other benefits, with the expectation that they will go on to pursue a doctorate.
Funding for this expansion comes from the University’s $50 million faculty diversity initiative unveiled in 2015, according to Graduate School Dean Lynn Cooley.
“The PREP programs are designed to prepare excellent students from diverse backgrounds for graduate school who will ultimately add significantly to the pipeline for faculty positions throughout academia,” Cooley said. “The programs expose recent college graduates to the first-year graduate student experience and provide an educational program tailored to enhance their success in graduate school.”
There are currently six students participating in the inaugural Emerging Scholars Initiative program and five students in Yale’s three-year-old biological and biomedical program, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, according to Associate Dean of the Graduate School and Director of the ESI program Michelle Nearon. Participants in both programs receive stipends of $27,200 for a 12-month period, tuition for at least one course per semester during the academic year, health insurance, a GRE-preparation course, a laptop computer and funding to attend national conferences in their field, she added.
The University decided to expand the PREP program from the sciences to the humanities, engineering, physical sciences and social sciences because there are fewer national post-baccalaureate programs for prospective Ph.D. students in these fields compared to the biological and biomedical sciences, Nearon said. She added that potential Ph.D. candidates in these areas of study could benefit from an additional year of research and coursework before entering graduate school.
“The primary, immediate objective of the [two PREP programs] is to provide participants with a foundation of knowledge, experiences and skills necessary to be useful graduate students,” Nearon said.
Kirsten Lee, a current participant in ESI-PREP studying 18th and 19th century literature in the English department, said she learned of the program through a mentor at Williams College and subsequently applied in the hopes of gaining more concrete experience in graduate school before committing to a Ph.D. program. Lee said that while the daily schedule for participants varies based on the discipline, most students balance their coursework with independent research and occasionally all convene for workshops about graduate student life.
Fellows are strongly encouraged to apply to Ph.D. programs both during and after their time in the program, Lee said, adding that the program has allowed her to experience graduate school before deciding to pursue a Ph.D., adding that she would recommend it to other students who are interested in potentially pursuing doctoral study.
“I have learned so much about what it means to pursue a Ph.D. through the PREP program,” Lee said. “For me, it has been so meaningful to get to try on graduate school before I officially enroll.”
Nathan Vasquez, another ESI-PREP participant, said the program gives students independence while also providing structure and guidance. He added that the program has allowed him to go through a “trial first year of grad school,” which he values immensely.
With the first year of the expanded programs underway, participants and Yale administrators are looking ahead to how they might be improved. Lee said she would like to see the program extend further into the humanities and the arts. Ultimately, the University also hopes to see these programs grow in size and scope, Nearon said.
“Its long term goals are for participants to be accepted into competitive graduate Ph.D. programs, for participants to subsequently and successfully graduate in a timely fashion, and for participants to ultimately contribute to increasing diversity and excellence within the faculty ranks,” Nearon said.
In fall 2015 there were 2,858 students at the Yale graduate school.