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Richards Center Hosts Second Annual Undergraduate Mentoring Program

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Richards Center Hosts Second Annual Undergraduate Mentoring Program

From June 25-30, the Richards Center hosted its second annual Emerging Scholars Undergraduate Mentoring Program. The program is designed to increase interest in Penn State’s graduate History program among students from historically underrepresented backgrounds and especially to expose them to Penn State’s unique dual degree programs in History and African American Studies and History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Twenty-three students applied for the program, and the 10 students who were accepted came from eight different states and the territory of Puerto Rico. They represented a variety of institutions, including Mississippi State, the University of Illinois-Chicago, the University of Arizona, Florida A & M (the only historically black institution in the Florida state university system), and the University of Puerto Rico, among others. During the week-long program they took part in panel discussions with current Penn State faculty and graduate students on such topics as writing compelling admissions statements, choosing a graduate program, and developing a successful research project. They also participated in a simulated doctoral seminar that introduced them to the practice of history at the graduate level. In their post-workshop survey, students praised the program. One commented that "the program more than met my expectations. It really helped to demystify grad school for me," while another student told us, "I can't wait to bring information about this program back to my university and encourage other students to apply."

When the program was launched in 2016, Crystal Sanders, Associate Professor in the Departments of History and African American Studies and one of the summer initiative coordinators, remarked that the Richards Center's program will not only diversify Penn State, but also, the academy: “The center's commitment to increasing the number of PhDs from underrepresented minority groups is exciting and commendable. Diversity among both students and faculty in the classroom fosters excellence and ensures that higher education reflects the demographics of our world.” The undergraduate mentoring curriculum already is bearing fruit. One of the participants in last year's inaugural event will enroll in the History department's PhD program in August.

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