Utah University Launches Program for Black Doctoral Students - Higher Education
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Utah University Launches Program for Black Doctoral Students

by Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah is launching a support network and stipend program for Black students pursuing its highest degrees.

The African-American Doctoral Scholars Initiative will launch this fall. It will provide eligible students with scholarships of up to $5,000 each year and access to a host of other resources, The Deseret News reported.

Applications for the program are being accepted through April 14.

The initiative will help prepare students for competition on the job market and establish a network of mentors and peers to help them be successful, said Deniece Dortch, program manager for the initiative and postdoctoral research fellow.
The scholarships can cover the costs of research, travel to academic conferences and preparing doctoral dissertations.

The cost of attending conferences, depending on the location and duration of the event, can be upward of $1,000.

“That’s a pretty hefty fee for a doctoral student, even the ones who are on fellowship. So what we’re doing as part of the initiative, we want to alleviate some of these costs,” Dortch said.

In addition to financial assistance, the initiative will offer doctoral students with opportunities to serve on research teams, present at national and international research conferences, attend grant-writing workshops, dissertation boot camps and work with African-American faculty and alumni mentors.

Connecting doctoral students with mentors is especially important for students as they conduct their research and write their dissertations, which is “the loneliest part of doctoral studies,” Dortch said.

Black students can also face additional challenges as doctoral candidates, “who are one of few in their programs or at their universities or in their colleges,” Dortch said. They can also feel like “their ideas are only valued when they’re speaking about things related to their phenotype or cultural identity, and not necessarily being valued for their intellectual prowess.”

Applicants for the initiative must self-identify as members of the African-American community, be accepted into a doctoral program at the university, be full-time students, and have earned at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA, among other requirements.

The University of Utah had 46 doctoral students in its medicine and law schools in fall 2015, Dortch said.

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