Florida A&M recently commenced the James H. Ammons Fellowship as part of the School of Graduate Studies and Research initiation of the HBCU Graduate Research and Education Program (HGREP), an exertion to increase the number of underrepresented minorities with advanced degrees.
FAMU has partnered with other presidents at black colleges, who will direct high achieving students into graduate programs at FAMU.
“We [FAMU] have partnership with Paine College, Bethune Cookman University and Fort Valley State University,” said Chanta Haywood, dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research.
Recipients of the fellowship are a part of F.A.C.E.S., FAMU Ambassadors for Continuing Educational Success, in an effort to recruit other scholars who will serve as ambassadors for FAMU.
Haywood said as part of the agreement with HBCU presidents, FAMU will send graduate students to their undergraduate institution on a date designated for FAMU to recruit students for graduate school.
The program allows these former student leaders to influence students that FAMU graduate programs are the best.
Haywood said it is not uncommon for HBCUs to partner with other institutions to help minorities achieve advanced degrees.
Haywood initiated the program while in graduate school.
Currently, the fellowship is being offered to six graduate students, which includes two FAMU alumni, who were student leaders during their undergraduate years.
“I was completely speechless when I got the announcement,” said Joane Theodule, 22, a Bethune-Cookman University alumna. “I couldn’t believe it because nothing was ever given to me.”
Theodule, a resident of Pine Hill, is the first person to be awarded the fellowship.
Theodule received an assistantship where she will conduct research that pays up to $9,000 each year, full cost of health insurance, a stipend to assist with travel and a stipend to assist with materials and funds to travel back to her undergraduate institution as a F.A.C.E.S. representative to recruit other scholars.
“All of the fellows do not receive the full funding that Theodule receives; however, they all get some funding,” Haywood said.
Haywood said she and Ammons have worked diligently to implement HGREP, which she refers to as her baby.
“I knew that in order to attract the best and the brightest students, I had to provide funding,” Haywood said.
Ammons provides health insurance for the graduate students and he also made sure that funding was not hard to obtain, said Haywood. Without Ammons’ support, the program would not exist.
“He’s very committed,” Haywood said. “That’s how we got the name of the fellowship.”
Tangela Serls, 22, a graduate from Fort Valley State University, is pursuing a master’s degree in English education and plans to obtain her Ph.D in education leadership from FAMU.
“I feel that this is going to have a great impact on blacks who receive post bachelor degrees,” said Serls from Macon, Ga.
Although Serls currently has health insurance through her parents’ provider, she plans to utilize the health insurance offered through the institution once her policy expires next year.
Serls said this fellowship offers opportunities that would normally be hard to obtain.
“This opportunity has helped me greatly,” Theodule said. “I’m used to working about 40 hours a week, now I only work 20 hours a week and have more time to study.”
With the help the fellowship has been able to offer, it has plans of getting more funding and awarding more students in the future.
“We are looking for more money to continue funding this program,” Haywood said. “I have been busy doing a lot of grant writing.”
The fellowship funds students until they graduate and plans to award more students next fall.