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Minority students succeed in Tech doctoral programs

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 09 - October 22, 1998

More minority students earn doctoral degrees at Virginia Tech than at any other university in the state; and, the university is among the top universities in the nation in terms of doctoral degrees awarded to African-Americans, according to a special report of the top 100 degree producers by Black Issues in Higher Education magazine (July 23, 1998).
"The state figures are probably not that surprising, considering we award 37 to 40 percent of the doctoral degrees in Virginia," said Len Peters, vice provost for Research and dean of the Graduate School. The national figures should also not be surprising, considering Virginia Tech is 30th in the nation in doctoral degree production. "And we have been aggressive in recruiting and supporting minority students at the graduate level," Peters said.

According to the report, Virginia Tech was twenty-seventh in the nation in numbers of doctoral degrees awarded to minority students in all disciplines. The 44 doctorates made up 11.6 percent of the doctorates awarded in 1995-96--the most recent year data was available from the U.S. Department of Education. The University of Virginia awarded 24 doctorates to minorities--7.4 percent of those earning the highest degree that year.

Virginia Tech is seventh in the nation for doctoral degrees awarded to African-Americans in all disciplines. The 30 students were 7.9 percent of graduates receiving that degree. U.Va. was nineteenth with 16 African-American doctoral recipients making up 4.9 percent of new doctors.
Degrees in education were the most popular at Virginia Tech, placing Tech second in the nation in doctoral degrees in education awarded to African-Americans--to 21 of the 30 African-Americans recipients of the most-advanced degree. U.Va. awarded degrees in education to four African-Americans, tied for 38th with 13 other institutions in doctorates awarded. No Virginia school was in the top 20 in education doctorates awarded to Hispanic-Americans or in the top 10 in education doctorates awarded to Asian-Americans.
At the University of Virginia, the doctoral degree in psychology was popular, with six African-American's earning their degree in that field--almost 19 percent of the doctorates awarded.
Virginia Tech is fifteenth in the number of doctoral degrees in engineering awarded to all minorities--four of 138 doctoral graduates. Two were African American and two individuals were Hispanic. George Mason University and Old Dominion University tied for 42nd with 31 other universities by awarding one engineering doctorate to a minority student.
There were no Virginia schools among the top institutions for Hispanic-Americans earning doctoral degrees, nor for Asian-Americans earning doctoral degrees.
Virginia Tech tied for seventh with eight other schools awarding doctoral degrees to Native Americans, not because there are a great many Native Americans enrolled at Tech, but because there are so few enrolled in doctoral programs anywhere, said Martha Johnson, assistant dean for minority student support, who initiated many of the minority-graduate-student-recruitment programs at Virginia Tech. "We were tied with Oklahoma State, for example." Virginia Tech awarded doctoral degrees to three Native Americans--less than one percent of students receiving doctoral degrees in 1995-96.
"What is critical for Virginia Tech is that we work to sustain the gains we've made at the doctoral level," said Benjamin Dixon, vice president for multicultural affairs. "We need to be concerned not just about total numbers, but also distribution of degrees awarded across disciplines and cultural groups. Virginia Tech has demonstrated that all types of students can be successful in our doctoral programs. The whole university has a stake in assuring the pipeline to the doctorate is continually filled with capable, aspiring non-majority young people."
"Even though we do not offer the same degrees in education as we did in 1995-96, I expect Virginia Tech to continue to be a place where minority students will feel like they can succeed," Peters said.
Graduate student enrollments are up among Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, and Native Americans.