Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate School Faces Diversity Challenges amid Leadership Transition

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate School Faces Diversity Challenges amid Leadership Transition

Article excerpt

With a wide range of initiatives covering sectors ranging from LGBTQ to military to underrepresented minorities, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate school is analyzing "what works" regarding diversity and inclusion as it undergoes a leadership transition.

Dr. Steven W. Matson, who has led the graduate school since July 2008, is turning over the reins to Dr. Suzanne Barbour, dean of the University of Georgia Graduate School, who will assume the Chapel Hill post in September.

Just days before the new dean's appointment was announced, Matson discussed with Diverse the graduate school's various initiatives for diversity and inclusion on many levels, not just the standard demographics.

"What we do in terms of diversity and student success dovetails very nicely with a very broad program of professional development that has evolved over the last 15 years with a goal of supporting all of our students on campus and providing them with the opportunities they need to prepare for the careers they will take," Matson explains, "recognizing that not every student will become a faculty member at a college or university." He added that the graduate school encourages students who decide to take a non-academic career path.

In his announcement of the incoming dean, Dr. Robert Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost, says of Barbour, "Suzanne will continue to build on our commitment to offering world-class graduate education. She is particularly excited about engaging adult learners through both degree-granting and non-degree-granting programs, including micro-credentialing programs--all tenets of Carolina's digital and lifelong learning initiative."

Looking at institutional culture

Barbour, who has a background in biochemistry and has served as a program director with the National Science Foundation, will also hold the position of professor of biochemistry and biophysics. She tells Diverse that today's graduate schools are facing serious global challenges. "The changing demographics of our nation necessitate a change in graduate education to ensure that the U.S. has the workforce necessary to remain the global leader in research, scholarship, service delivery, and innovation," Barbour says.

She adds that "it is imperative that we develop strategies to not only recruit students from groups that have typically been underrepresented in graduate education, but also take a critical look at our institutional culture to ensure it is inclusive and equitable in ways that ensure success and retention of underrepresented graduate students, faculty, and staff."

According to university statistics, in fall 2018 graduate students comprised 28 percent (8,417 students) of Chapel Hill's total enrollment of 30,011 students. Professional students comprised 8.3 percent or 2,477 students. …

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