Participants in this year’s cohort of the Razorgrad Institute for Success and Engagement.
When DeJuan Gilchrist arrived at the U of A campus this month to begin his MFA in painting, he found himself a stranger in a strange land. Originally from Atlanta, Gilchrist knew no one from Arkansas before he decided to study here. Not only that, but he was predictably nervous about his transition to graduate school.
But Gilchrist has already found a sense of belonging and community in the U of A through the Razorgrad Institute for Success and Engagement (RISE). By investing in promising graduates who have historically been underrepresented, RISE is committed to developing an inclusive environment that fosters student success. population.
“I was definitely nervous about making the transition to graduate school—I’m not yet,” Gilchrist said. I was able to communicate with other first-year graduates who had a how they navigated it.”
Delivered by the Office of Graduate Student Support in Graduate and International Education, RISE has been helping students transition to graduate school since its inception five years ago. graduation research.
“We are always looking for ways to increase support and community among our graduate students. The RISE program will help us bring bright, energetic and potential changemakers to the University of Arkansas and help them succeed.” “But it also brings more synergies in the form of diversifying the campus and creating a more inclusive and equitable campus community.”
Sarah Goforth (left) collaborates with Chy’na Nellon in a session to create a student’s personal elevator pitch.
Twenty-two students are participating in this year’s program, and a week of activities beginning August 8 include a crash course on campus resources and a tour of university facilities such as the Pat Walker Health Center and the University Library. , which includes discussions on topics such as: How to deal with imposter syndrome, how to get guidance, how to find your way in a predominantly white institution.
“RISER, as it is affectionately known in our office, is involved in activities focused on self-development, community creation, and how to access key resources,” Moix said. “But most importantly, they form a close-knit community of friends, advisors, mentors and supporters.”
And the data supports the program’s success. On average, students attending RISE have a retention rate of 93%, contrasting with 83% for white graduate students at the university and her 76% for underrepresented minorities.
Christina Barnes, from Virginia, is a member of the 2019 cohort and is pursuing her Ph.D. In her experimental psychology, programming provided a unique window onto campus and onto herself.
“There are many on-campus responsibilities and shared opportunities that I have had the opportunity to participate in. RISE is by far the most impactful and meaningful,” she said. I don’t think I would have had the success in grad school if I hadn’t had the experience.It goes deeper than other onboarding programs.I’ll introduce you to things.RISE will give you skills that you wouldn’t otherwise have needed. helps you to.”
But most importantly, the program emphasizes personal growth and marketability in its students. Students participate in guided meditations, value exercises, and empowerment discussions. Executive of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Her Director, Sarah Goforth, also works with each student in her cohort for a two-minute personal elevator. Serve college administrators and others at dinners.
“For many of them, this is the first time they’re standing in front of an audience and telling them who they are, why they’re here, and what they need.” to make the most of this opportunity by telling their story in a compelling way and sincerely asking for the help they need, which may be an internship connection , it can also be mentorship, while others are in the role of graduate assistants or helping find resources to fund their research. , after the conference, we make a lot of connections for our students.
Gofors was initially interested in the program as an opportunity to apply for an entrepreneurship diploma, but quickly realized the impact of participating in the program.
“This is no longer a hiring opportunity for me,” she said. “I am a deep believer in the value that the RISE program provides to students. It is short in duration but long in impact. It has been one of the most transformative experiences for graduate students present on our campus.” is.”
For Barnes, creating her own personal story in an elevator pitch format was one of the most valuable experiences in the program and a skill she acquired during her studies at university.
“At first, I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this. What’s the point?’ “You may not realize it until it’s over, but you’ll find that everything we do throughout the week helps tell our story…”
When Barnes finished the program, she “immediately” wanted to work as a program mentor for the next year’s cohort.
“RISE is so impactful and I love talking and getting to know people, so I was happy to share my knowledge,” she said. “By participating in RISE, I was able to qualify as an assistant and meet people who became close and valuable friends. Finding an influential mentor or having come a year or two earlier for a long time, RISE may not have existed, so that’s so valuable. I’m not sure I would have made the most of my experience without it.It was how I started things.”
Five years later, Moix sees the program not only impacting student success, but also the bonds between students.
“I have seen them become empowered and confident in telling their own stories.” , have seen that graduate school is where they belong and the larger academic community recognizes where they can contribute.”