Auburn University’s College of Education recently welcomed seven prospective graduate students to campus as part of an innovative recruitment program developed by Dr. Jared Russell, Associate Professor in the School of Kinesiology and Director of Student Development for the College.
The students are all seniors or recent graduates, and are primarily from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), including Morehouse and Spelman College, both in Atlanta, and Alabama State University in Montgomery. One of the students is from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale.
“Our Summer Bridge Program is a way to introduce the College of Education and our Kinesiology graduate program to students of color and first-generation college students,” said Russell. “We’ve had real success with the program over the past few years, and we presently have seven students of color in our graduate program. Our goal is to graduate at least one minority doctoral student every year for the next ten years.”
At a welcoming luncheon on June 17, Russell told the students that the program was rewarding, but demanding.
“From your undergraduate studies in Kinesiology and Biology you already understand the basic science, but that’s the easy part,” he said. “You will certainly be engaged in the laboratory, and you will be required to apply that knowledge to your chosen area of research. But the social and cultural aspects of Auburn must work for you along with the academic component. We want you here, but we feel just as strongly that Auburn must be right for you. If Auburn isn’t the right place for you, I want to help you find the place that is right, and to see you succeed.”
College of Education Dean Betty Lou Whitford was also on hand to welcome the students.
“I myself am a first-generation college student and I remember well when someone first suggested to me that I go on to graduate school,” Whitford said. “I thought that grad school was just for special people who were far beyond my experiences but I had good mentors and worked hard and saw that success in doctoral studies involved the kinds of things Dr. Russell just described. Here at Auburn we have a tremendous Kinesiology faculty, a world-class facility, and a school spirit that is infectious. As Dr. Russell said, we really want you here. But we want you to want us, as well. This five-week experience will let you get to know us for who we really are. ”
Bridge Program launched with help from Charles Barkley
Dr. Russell told the students how he was introduced to Kinesiology graduate school.
“When I was a senior at Morehouse College in 1997, I told an advisor I wanted to try graduate school, and she gave me a big book that listed all the schools. That was it. I went to the University of Georgia and had a great experience, but I thought that was a bad way to encourage people and I never forgot it. I wanted to do something about it so four years ago I went to Morehouse and told some students there about Auburn. A few came to visit us here, and one guy enrolled. The next year four or five more came to visit, and two people enrolled. We were starting to see results and felt good about it.”
As more people from Morehouse came to Auburn, Russell began visiting Spelman and had similar results.
“After that, we received help from Graduate School Dean George Flowers and then one of our top development people, Hank Galbreath, reached out to Charles Barkley, who also believes very deeply in the importance of diversity at Auburn. Charles has continued to love and support his university for many years. After much discussion, Charles decided to fund this program. We are grateful to Charles for his generosity and belief in something that we in the College embrace as one of our core principles.”
“We’re not perfect at Auburn,” Russell concluded, “but we are definitely on the right path. Kinesiology has grown. Our program is very highly ranked. Our facilities are among the best in the country, and we want you here. I’ll say that again. We want you to get to know all of us, and to see our good side. I can guarantee you that by the time you leave Auburn it will feel like home.”