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Smithites Travel to Wisconsin for a Deep Dive on Grad School Admissions

CHARLOTTE, N.C. / July 19, 2022 – Rachel Allison ’23, a social work major, aspires to one day own her own child protective agency specializing in addressing the needs of children impacted by sexual trauma.

But before that, Allison needs more education. She was excited when she learned she was one of three Johnson C. Smith University students chosen to attend the Inaugural School of Human Ecology’s Equity and Justice Summer institute at The University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“The summer institute took us through what it takes to go to graduate school,” said Allison. “We got a great understanding of what is expected from the student as well as what is expected from the faculty and staff. It was very helpful for me.”

Allison, along with Kiara Houston and Mikel Johnson, two JCSU psychology majors, were selected for the program. Dr. Ruth Greene, the O’Herron Distinguished Professor of Psychology, served as a faculty representative at the institute.

A total of nine students from JCSU, Elizabeth City State University and North Carolina A&T State University attended the institute, and their airfare, lodging, meals and program costs were covered.

Throughout the course of the five-day institute, students learned more about what it takes to pursue a graduate degree, how to pay for it and how to identify and write their research statements.

“The workshops were comprehensive and covered knowledge critical to being a competitive candidate for graduate school admission,” said Greene. “Particularly exciting for students was the interaction in individual and small group discussions with University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty to learn about their research and how it might interface with students’ research. It was a well-planned and executed graduate school visitation.”

Allison said the learning went beyond the classroom, as she and fellow attendees were given the opportunity to talk with graduate students about their experiences.

“Their transparency was great,” she said. “We were able to connect with African Americans who go to the school. Transitioning from an HBCU to Madison, Wisconsin, where it is predominately white, would be a challenge. The students were really transparent when it came to talking about their experiences at the school and in Wisconsin. Learning about the campus and areas around it was so important. You need to get your education, but the environment you’re in is important as well.”

Greene said the partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison stemmed from an earlier collaboration. 

The Smith Institute for Applied Research and the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program at JCSU cohosted a three-day conference titled “21st Century Evidence-Based Research Mentoring for Student Success and Persistence.”

Greene along with professors from the University of Wisconsin, Tennessee State University and other JCSU faculty and staff, served on a panel that addressed tools and techniques to support student mentorship in research.

The colleges noticed the need to educate future graduates on their options for continued education during the conference.

“Graduate school is about finding schools related to your major interests, but also your values and career,” said Greene. “I’ve never seen anything so thoroughly done!”

Greene thanked a number of professors at other universities as well as Dr. Diane Bowles, vice president of Government Sponsored Programs and Research, and Dr. Karen D. Morgan, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, for making the trip a success. 

JCSU President Clarence D. Armbrister congratulated Greene and the students for their achievement.

“This kind of program aligns squarely with our strategic plan, The Gold(en) Blueprint, particularly Strategic initiative pillar No. 4 – seamless pathways for students,” said Armbrister. “This is a prime example of the kind of exposure we want our students to have while here at JCSU as they contemplate their post-graduate activities – whether they pursue jobs in the corporate arena or pursue graduate school.”

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