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Featured Profile—Howard University

Since its founding in 1867, Howard has served as a national leader in educating populations that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education. As the nation's only Historically Black College/University (HBCU) categorized as a Research/Doctoral University–Extensive, Howard has had a sustained commitment to providing academic and research training to doctoral students in many fields, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Since 1996, Howard has been the largest on-campus producer of African-American Ph.D. recipients in the United States, awarding more than 340 doctoral degrees in all fields of study over that span. Additionally, Howard is the largest producer of African-American undergraduates who go on to earn the doctorate.

Howard has offered doctoral education for 47 years, and currently offers 28 Ph.D. degree programs, nine M.D./Ph.D. programs, and four graduate certificate programs. Since awarding its first doctoral degree in 1958, Howard University has prepared many outstanding African Americans and students from other underrepresented groups for the professoriate and for careers in the scientific and research communities.

Orlando L. TaylorPh.D. Completion Project activities, designed to address attrition patterns and optimize doctoral completion, are currently underway at Howard. The project was publicized on campus via a press release and featured articles. In an effort to jump start the faculty buy-in, the project was officially launched in February 2005 during a kick-off luncheon with the academic deans and graduate faculty in the eight participating programs. Chontrese M. DoswellThe overview, objectives, and next steps were discussed by the Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School Orlando L. Taylor, as well as Daniel Denecke from the Council of Graduate Schools. Provost Richard A. English delivered the charge to the faculty and strongly endorsed the project to underscore the University's commitment to this endeavor. Project activities are coordinated by Co-PI Chontrese M. Doswell, Assistant Dean for Retention, Mentoring, and Support Programs.

Project interventions for each of the six areas identified by CGS as key factors influencing doctoral student outcomes will be implemented as follows:

(1) Selection: The completion and attrition templates will be added to each of the eight participating program websites and linked to the Graduate School's portal for the office of graduate admissions and the office of retention, mentoring and support programs in September 2005. The purpose is to inform prospective, as well as currently enrolled students, of the doctoral completion outcomes in project programs. The exercise will be augmented and completion templates will be added for all programs in September 2006.

(2) Mentoring: The graduate faculty in each of the eight participating programs at Howard will participate in an all-day retreat examining Effective Mentoring Strategies for Doctoral Students on Wednesday, September 7, 2005. The keynote speaker for this event is Dr. Michael Nettles, Vice President of the Policy Evaluation and Research Center at the Education Testing Service.

The goal of the retreat is to address faculty mentoring for doctoral students in hopes of reducing early and late stages of attrition. The dialogue will produce best doctoral mentoring practices and serve as a benchmark for implementing initiatives in each program supported by a stipend.

(3) Financial Support: The award structure will, for each participating program in particular, and for programs in all disciplines, reflect the annual progress of doctoral students. In addition to the pre-existing criterion of a 3.2 cumulative GPA for all continuing students, Ph.D. students receiving financial support administered by the Graduate School will be required to advance to candidacy by the end of their third year in residence. Moreover, in an effort to optimize their transition, first-year doctoral students will not be allowed to hold a Teaching Assistantship due to the added responsibilities associated with teaching a course.

(4) Program Environment: Informal gatherings will be held each semester during the grant period for Ph.D. students and faculty in participating programs. The gatherings will provide an opportunity for participants to informally engage in an atmosphere outside of the department. Moreover, these occasions will provide a context for students to make contact with colleagues from other disciplines promoting multi-disciplinary exchange.

(5) Research Mode: An important theme expressed by recent graduates while administering the Exit Survey was a need for stronger training in how to get their work published. In response to this feedback, the grant will support an annual workshop addressing this important area of professional development as part of an on-going lecture series. The workshop, aptly titled “How to Get Your Work Published,” will feature editorial board members from journals publishing research in the social sciences and humanities and science, engineering, and mathematics fields.

(6) Process and Procedures: The Graduate School will collaborate with participating programs to ensure that all first-year doctoral students receive within the first semester an academic advisory session to discuss their program of study. The program of study chronicles all requirements needed to complete the doctoral degree. These students' ability to register for the next semester will be disabled without a program of study signed by the chair and director of graduate studies on file in the Graduate School.


The Featured Profile* section highlights partner universities that have developed creative and/or effective approaches to optimizing Ph.D. completion, particularly for underrepresented minorities and women. Featured Profiles may include details about the structure and design of the project, the shape and effectiveness of implementation, results of recent or ongoing data analyses, and/or information about notable project leaders. For more general profiles of each participating university (including contact information and a list of participating programs), please see Project Participants.

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*If you would like your university to be featured in this section, please contact Nathan Bell.

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