Almost two years after the Council of Graduate Schools' 2016 report on Holistic Review in Graduate Admissions, graduate programs across the enterprise underwent holistic admissions training with national thought-leaders Dr. Julie R. Posselt and Dr. Casey W. Miller. Introduced by Interim Graduate Dean Steve Fetter, the morning plenary addressed the legal issues in admissions, the current state of evaluative cultures, non-cognitive competencies, the role of the GRE, and risk aversion. There was broad conversation about implicit bias, patterns of grade inflation and impediments for minority participation, GRE score gaps, and useful ways of assessing and predicting student success.
"Faculty rarely have the chance to come together within their departments — much less across them — to consider the consequences of their admissions decisions. Maryland is already a national leader in encouraging holistic admissions review; I hope today’s workshops provided faculty with good food for thought about the practice of holistic review and how implementing it can make access to graduate education more equitable," observed Posselt after the morning session.
An afternoon of hands-on training followed. Admissions committee members gathered from the departments of Astronomy, Biological Sciences, Computer Science, Hearing and Speech Sciences, Entymology, Creative Writing, Aerospace Engineering, English, and Civil and Environmental Engineering. Leadership from the School of Public Health, Engineering, Agriculture and Natural Resources and Arts and Humanities were also present - Dr. Stephen Roth, Dr. Elisabeth Smela, Dr. Evelyn Cooper and Dr. Ralph Bauer, respectively. In addition, the University of Maryland, Baltimore's Department of Microbiology and Immunology was represented by Drs. Bret Hassel and Heather Ezelle.
Faculty members engaged in group work across disciplines and also within their own programs. There were actionable take-aways that programs found helpful. "Having Julie [Posselt] and Casey [Miller] was really fantastic. This is exactly the kind of training we needed and I hope this group continues to share best practices and resources well past this training," said Dr. Nancy Smith, Assistant Director of Graduate Student Services at the School of Public Health. In turn, Miller hopes that "programs will adopt structured holistic protocols to allow greater access to Ph.D. programs for historically underrepresented groups, and that this will in turn lead programs to develop inclusive practices that increase Ph.D. completion rates for those groups."
Leo Torres, Bioengineering doctoral student, summed it up best when he said, "as a Ph.D. candidate that aspires to join the professoriate, and who happens to come from an underrepresented minority group, this event presented an aspect of the academy that I did not consider in the past: forging departmental culture and community through graduate admissions. The culture of a department can have a impact on the success and emotional/mental well-being of graduate students therefore, it is important to provide a nurturing environment for all. This workshop presented methods on how faculty can remove bias, preserve academic excellence, and build a diverse and inclusive graduate student and faculty population. This is incredibly helpful in preparing for the application process and in choosing institutions and departments I would like to be a part of. I plan to implement philosophies discussed today when I am a faculty member."
(Thank you to the Department of Physics' IGEN grant and Dr. Kimberly Griffin for making this event possible.)