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$95K Microsoft grant to provide opportunity to increase retention and holistic success of minority doctoral students

$95K Microsoft grant to provide opportunity to increase retention and holistic success of minority doctoral students

July 5, 2022 at 10:15am

Microsoft awarded the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) a $95,000 grant to address the recruitment and retention of historically underrepresented students across FIU’s 33 doctoral programs.

“As a premier research institution and one of the nation’s largest Minority Serving Institution’s, DEI’s mission is to promote upward mobility and produce important research, particularly within our diverse populations. Partnering with Microsoft will allow us to further research and support our minority doctoral students,” explained Emmanuele Bowles, director of the Division of DEI.  

Research has found that there are recruitment and retention issues when it comes to graduate student enrollment, retention and successful degree completion. These findings pose areas of opportunity in strengthening institutional commitments to supporting graduate students of historically underrepresented minorities at FIU as they prepare for their research/professional careers. Specifically, FIU will implement a cohort model for doctoral students at FIU across multiple fields.

From there, the leadership of the program has future plans to expand the cohort model into a multi-year fellowship team for large-scale interdisciplinary networking and collaboration of minority doctoral students between programs.

“We want to build community, and we want to build belonging. We want to be able to help strengthen how we best serve our doctoral students by giving them access and opportunity, not only with peer networking but also the ability to connect with experts within their field, both academically and professionally,” said Jay Jefferson, data analyst for DEI. Jefferson serves as the Primary Investigator (PI) and project manager for the grant, analyzing the issues and obstacles that restrict the recruitment and retention of minority candidates, particularly in STEM fields.

One of the best ways for FIU, as one of the largest and most diverse institutions in the nation, to improve minority representation across faculty positions and administrative roles is to ensure that more diverse applicants are accepted into these terminal degree programs and achieve degree completion," said Trina Fletcher, assistant professor for the College of Engineering and Computing and the PI for research for the grant.

Graduate studies can be very challenging for graduate students when considering financial constraints and managing familial responsibilities, to name a few, according to Fletcher. While there have been increased mentoring efforts, Fletcher says that not enough emphasis on improving the culture and climate within departments and increased resources for students, especially financial aid, have been implemented. This eventually affects representation at the faculty and leadership levels since graduate students are ultimately the individuals who are hired for these roles. These pipeline issues contribute to the cycle of recruitment and retention problems that the fellowship program will work to address.

The fellowship is designed to promote overall student success across all doctoral programs and will support 12-15 recipients for the 2022-2023 academic year. The recipients will be comprised of individuals from every doctoral-level program at FIU and each recipient will receive $1,200 for the Fall and Spring semesters ($2,400 total). Selected participants will be engaged extensively through various DEI activities and attend monthly social activities. Emphasis will be placed on candidates from STEM fields to address the lack of diversity in these disciplines.

“The implementation of this cohort model will ultimately promote the excellence and success of underrepresented doctoral students. Through this concerted effort, we hope to strengthen the United States’ position across various fields, especially within technology and make Miami a tech center for innovation and research”, added Bowles.

“When a grad student can be seen and heard, not just because they are passionate about their field, but as a person, overall, looking for a social connection, peer support, mentorship, and guidance, that is when a doctoral student can really thrive and accomplish their goals to the best of their potential,” said Jefferson.

To be eligible, candidates must be considered a historically underrepresented minoritized student at FIU, be fully admitted to an FIU doctoral program, have at least a 3.0 GPA, and submit a CV and resume along with two-three-minute videos or two 300-word essays describing their long-term professional goals and an accomplishment they are most proud of and why. The application deadline is July 18, 2022.

For full eligibility requirements and to apply, visit