In an effort to address the lack of black male professors in colleges nationwide, Graduate School of Education Dean Andy Porter and professor Shaun Harper introduced the Grad Prep Academy in 2009.
Supported by the Provost’s Diversity Fund, the initiative prepares a select group of black male college juniors from schools across the country to enter graduate education programs, including Penn’s GSE, for which the application fee is waived. 2011 marks the first year past program participants have begun accepting admission to graduate school.
Participants are also paired with current black male doctoral students — some of whom are Penn GSE students — and receive a free Kaplan GRE prep course. Students also attend four days of panels and workshops at Penn with GSE faculty and students focused on graduate admissions and education research.
Porter said he and Harper began the Academy to tackle the fact that “there are too few scholars of color in education research.”
Harper and Porter established the program as part of GSE because of Penn’s commitment to diversity. Porter explained that hiring faculty and accepting students who are underrepresented minorities is a “high priority” for the University.
Since the creation of the program, the low enrollment of black males in doctorate programs has received more attention nationwide, with a dean at the University of Maryland looking to implement a similar program, Harper said.
Nationally, only 2.1 percent of doctorates were awarded to black men in 2008, and the number of black males applying to GSE are similarly low, Harper said.
Since its launch, the Academy has served two cohorts — a group of 10 students in November 2009, “The Penn Ten,” and a group of eight in February 2011, “The Emerging Eight.”
The program received over 350 applications in the first two years, Harper said, signifying that “this particular initiative is really filling a void.”
Brandon Broome, a junior at Brown University and a member of “The Emerging Eight,” said although other programs exist for minorities in the fields of law and medicine, the Grad Prep Academy was the first program he had ever seen for education.
Demetri Morgan, a University of Florida senior and a member of “The Penn Ten” likewise reflected that, “for the first time in my college career I was around other black men that were intellectually stimulated by the same topics that were interesting to me.”
Both Morgan and Broome look forward to the day when they are professors and can be role models for other black males looking to go into education.
Having a diverse faculty is “important to an undergraduate student’s experience in college. Diversity shouldn’t just lie within the student population, there also should be diversity across the staff,” Broome said.
The program also seeks to establish a “fraternal network of black male intellectual leaders in education” that “will be connected with each other for the remainder of their professional lives,” Harper said.
Both Morgan and Broome keep in contact with most of their cohort members, many of whom plan to enroll in graduate education programs.
Broome, who plans on applying to doctoral education programs this summer, said participating in the Academy “solidified” his interest in education research.
Morgan, who will pursue a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs at Indiana University next fall, likewise plans to get a Ph.D. after obtaining his masters.
“Dr. Harper is actually doing things beyond the research,” said Morgan. “I don’t know how I could have gotten through [the admissions process] without the Grad Prep Academy and the support from Dr. Harper and the other guys in the program.”