Doctoral Student Recruitment and Mentoring 

Admission to our program is relatively competitive, and no more than 30% of the total applicants have been offered admission in any given year. In some years, we have offered admission to less than 10% of the applicants. During the last eight years, the number of applications (both domestic and international) to our program has increased consistently.

Our selection process is a two-stage process, involving active participation of all the faculty members with dissertation status. After initial screening of applications, many of the shortlisted candidates are invited for a campus visit (if residing in the U.S). Beginning this year, we will also interview our short-listed candidates via Skype/telephone if they reside outside the country. After the interviews, candidates are ‘rank-ordered’ and offered admission (according to available funding).

Underrepresented groups in our field are African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans. So far, we have only one student who falls in the category of Appalachian American minority. We are making changes to attract more minority/underrepresented students to our program. In a recent initiative targeted at attracting more minority applications, we are now offering ‘application fee waivers’ to any qualified minority applicants. We are also exploring the utility of bringing highly ranked applicants from underrepresented groups to campus for pre-acceptance visits. In addition, this year we have begun recruiting minority students at national recruiting events, including one specifically established for minority students. We are committed to offering multi-year funding through some combination of GRAs, GTAs, and fellowships to improve minority enrollment in our program.

Mentoring is important for us. As a program, we believe that creating and sustaining a safe and engaging community is necessary for higher learning, and that mentoring can help students feel supported and can enhance collegial relations with faculty. Our students are mentored in multiple ways. Upon admission, they work with their peer student mentors, who help them learn the campus, community, and program. Faculty mentors include the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, the Assistant Chair for Graduate Studies, and academic advisors (chairs of Comprehensive Oral Exam and Dissertation committees). In addition, GRAs are mentored by supervising faculty, and GTAs are formally assigned a faculty mentor who teaches in their content area. GTAs also attend a GTA seminar that meets several times each semester, led by a senior faculty member.