Graduate Student Association seeks to increase enrollment in graduate school


Doctoral graduates from the Class of 2022 prepare for Commencement as they sit together. Staff photo.

Terry Jackson, PhD, Staff Writer

The Virginia State University Graduate Student Association (GSA) intends to have a greater impact on the recruitment and retention of students into graduate school. GSA President Chiwale Farrow believes the first step begins with graduate student involvement.

“I would like to see more graduate students participate as much as possible,” Farrow said. “As graduate students, we have to take action.”

Virginia State University offers two doctoral degrees, thirteen master’s degrees, and two certificate programs. As the university celebrates record undergraduate enrollment, graduate student enrollment remains roughly 10 percent of that number. The graduate schools want to decrease the ratio between these degree-seeking students by increasing the total number of VSU postgraduate students.

One method the graduate school seeks to grow is by targeting VSU undergraduates interested in graduate studies. GSA President Farrow has contacted Senior Class President Phil Neubia and Dr. Michael Rainey to execute a strategy. Farrow wants to first survey the student body to get useful data that can be translated into an action plan.

“We need numbers to see how many students are interested in attending graduate school. How many students are interested in continuing their education at Virginia State University?” Farrow said. “If they are looking at other universities, what is the reason for that?”

Student retention is a key to building the graduate school. GSA President Farrow wants to know what more can be done by the university to target a pool of students interested in remaining at VSU for additional educational development.

The University does provide incentives for students to seek additional degrees here. Often, requirements for graduate programs include letters of recommendation, a resume, a personal statement, and additional documents. The Trojan Squared program provides VSU undergraduates with a 3.0 GPA or higher, automatic acceptance into participating graduate programs, and the GRE is not required.

VSU students are needed here to continue to build the university, to accomplish its goals of excellence in education, as well as ready students to be functional in a global economy.

External recruitment is the second method necessary to grow the graduate student ranks at VSU. To do so, the university allocates resources to promote the graduate school on a regional, state, and national scale. Furthermore, the university attracts a variety of international students consistently.

President Farrow wants the GSA to engage in external recruitment on a consistent basis. More graduate students should be asked to travel to universities and conferences for recruitment purposes. The students are the best spokespersons of the VSU graduate school education and experience.

The Math and Computer Science Departments offer 12-month M.S. degree programs as well. Qualified applicants must have a 3.2 GPA or greater to be accepted. Each provides a monthly stipend and must be African American or from a low-income background.

President Farrow also made it clear that it is her responsibility to act as “a liaison.. with the higher powers at the university because that’s where the real change will be present. That’s where the real power is.” Therefore, she hopes to connect with faculty and staff leaders to affect changes in policies that affect graduate student enrollment.

“GSA is here,” President Farrow said. “We are here, we would like to be recognized, and we would like all to participate and assist us. We will provide assistance to the [university] body as well.”