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Recruiting Black Ph.D. Students

Grant Aids Recruitment of African American Ph.D. Students

UC award to the Riverside campus will fund mentoring and graduate-level experience for students from historically black colleges and universities.

(May 20, 2011)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The University of California-Historically Black Colleges and Universities Initiative has awarded UC Riverside a $156,417 grant to mentor and encourage more African American undergraduates to enroll in UC graduate programs.

A total of 18 African American students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) will spend eight weeks at the Riverside campus – six each summer – beginning in 2012.

The UCR program – named the Lindon Barrett Scholars Mentoring Program in memory of a UCR scholar of African American literary studies who died in 2008 – will offer a graduate research experience in African American literature and literary studies and mentors for the participants.

The goal of the University of California initiative is to increase the number of African American students enrolling in UC doctoral programs in all disciplines, said Erica Edwards, assistant professor of English and principal investigator of the grant.

Historically black colleges and universities do a better job of preparing African American students to be professors and scientists, according to a 2010 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Edwards said. Seventeen of the 21 top producers of black students who pursue Ph.D.s in the sciences were historically black colleges and universities, she said. And black students at HBCUs are more likely than their peers at other institutions to collaborate with faculty members on research.

“There is a culture of collaboration and mentoring at these colleges and universities that gets students excited about pursuing research,” Edwards said. “I know this because of my own undergraduate experience at Spelman College. We are interested in hearing from HBCU faculty about how to cultivate students’ interest in research. We also can learn from HBCU faculty about how to do more with less, how to prepare students from K-12 systems that are failing them, and how to prepare them to pursue Ph.D.s.”

The Lindon Barrett Scholars Mentoring Program will operate in partnership with the UCR Graduate Division’s Mentoring Summer Research Internship Program and the United Negro College Fund-Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program.

Edwards and Vorris Nunley, associate professor of English and co-principal investigator, will teach the seminars and partner with supporting faculty from the UCR departments of English, History and Ethnic Studies to oversee the summer projects that will simulate the academic rigor of doctoral research. The students will continue their research with faculty mentors at their home institutions.

Participating students, who must have completed their junior year, will receive financial support to cover travel expenses, room and board, and a $3,000 stipend. Those who are accepted into a UC graduate program will receive additional support for their Ph.D. program.

Nunley said the grant “reflects both the continuing importance of the humanities and how Lindon Barrett embodied the best of the humanistic tradition in an age where ignorance is too often wrapped in patriotism and where literary, poetic, and social knowledge that is not explicitly related to the making of money is sometimes deemed as elitist and not practical.”

“Lindon understood that the notion of the good society was more than getting what one wants,” Nunley said. “It is about commitment to notions of art, literature, poetry and society that expands and uplifts human possibility, human potential, and every once in awhile, the human soul without excluding those qualities from folks of color, women, queers, and the physically challenged.”


The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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