Program flooded with grads

Increasing the number of African Americans who hold master’s or terminal degrees. That’s the objective of the Graduate Feeder Scholars Program in place at Florida A&M University.

At its inception in 1987 under former president Frederick Humphries, the Graduate Feeder Scholarship Program at Florida A&M University consisted of only about 15 institutions.

Since 1990, under the direction of Linda Nixon Hudson, the GFSP number has nearly tripled the number of institutions to which FAMU exports its academic standouts.

Several of the 44 institutions that participate in FAMU’s program are predominately white institutions, which pose an additional change to contend with for students that come from HBCUs.

Asked about why many of the predominately white institutions are making the effort to recruit minority students, African Americans in particular, Hudson provided several reasons.

“Many institutions are feeling the push to diversify their student bodies. Research has shown that if you have African Americans among your student body, the effort to recruit African-American students and faculty becomes easier,” Hudson said.

In addition to the academic capabilities FAMU graduate and doctoral students embody, Hudson cited other positive aspects these students bring to the scholastic table.

“As African-Americans we add something to the student body. We bring knowledge, culture and history to the college campus,” Hudson said.

Also the director of the Graduate Assistance in Areas of Need Programs (GAAN), Hudson acts as a liaison between FAMU and the graduate feeder institutions with representatives in place that monitor the students matriculation through the duration of his or her academic career.

The recruitment of potential graduate and doctoral students begins during their sophomore year. This is done in an effort to help students establish a rapport with faculty members of the institutions they may one day actually attend.

“Just like a coach recruits athletes, we want to recruit academic scholars,” Hudson said.

Echoing Hudson’s views on the GFSP is Dawn Holley, Ph.D, and current assistant professor of Vocational Education. After completing program her undergraduate and graduate studies at FAMU, Holley said she never initially intended on seeking a terminal degree. After meeting with Hudson and corresponding with Penn State University, where she ultimately obtained her doctorate degree in 1998.

The GFSP is beneficial in that they take the guesswork out of deciding what institution and where a student should attend. They take the leg work out of the process for the student,” Holley said.

Holley said that she’s noticed a concerted effort on the part of Penn State to bring minorities other than those on the athletic team into their programs.

Despite the rigorous academic program at Penn State, Holley says she was never intimidated. “FAMU prepared me well for what Penn. State what to offer,” Holley said.

Becoming acclimated to surroundings other than the familiar element of FAMU was also a smooth transition assistant professor of Food Sciences professor Mitwe Musingo. After gaining her masters degree at FAMU, Musingo continued and completed her doctoral studies at the University of Florida in 1999, one of the institutions participating in the GFSP.

“I generally look for the similarities instead of the differences,” Musingo said when asked about the difference in attending a TWI (Traditionally White Institute) as opposed to an HBCU.

Musingo said she would strongly recommend the GFSP to perspective graduate and doctoral students who meet the necessary academic criteria.

“Education is extremely important. We need more African-Americans from HBCUs with terminal degrees to go back to their institutions and serve as role models,” Musingo said.

The GFSP has an annual objective to place anywhere from 75 to 100 students at the 44 member institutions. There are currently about 200 students from FAMU have enrolled at GFSP institutions. At least 30 students thus far have graduated with terminal degrees.