Each September, as the promise of a new academic year unfolds, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology invites high performing students from underrepresented minorities to experience U-M graduate programs.

The Fall Recruitment Partnership gives students an idea of what it’s like to be a graduate student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan. The initiative began in 2007, originally supported by a grant from the National Center for Institutional Diversity to Professors John Vandermeer (EEB) and Ivette Perfecto (SNRE). The Rackham Graduate School now funds the program. 

“I had the opportunity to participate in the Fall Recruitment Partnership weekend in 2008,” said Naim Edwards, a current EEB Frontiers master’s student. “It was the fall of my senior year, and I had not given much thought to applying to graduate school at that point. I flew to Detroit with two other classmates and we were met at the airport with a warm welcome by a current grad student. Friday's schedule consisted of meetings with current faculty, who shared their work and interests with us, and the rest of the trip was spent at the George Reserve. At the reserve, we got a taste of the field ecology course. This was my foray into graduate school and life as a potential grad school at U of M.

“The experience, honestly, marked a moment where I began to not only consciously consider going to grad school, but it aroused a desire go to graduate school,” Edwards continued. “It felt cool to be in the presence of people who not only appreciate science and nature, but whose lives are dedicated to understanding it better. Long story short, the Fall Recruitment Partnership Weekend made an impression and inspired me to actively pursue a career in science.”

“The basic idea is to develop relationships with colleges and universities that tend to have high enrollments of underrepresented minority students,” said Vandermeer. “Currently we have ongoing relationships with Howard University, Morehouse University, Tuskegee University, University of Missouri at St. Louis, and several campuses of the University of Puerto Rico. Each year we ask our contacts there to provide us with a list of names of high-performing students who we might invite to ‘experience’ EEB and SNRE at U-M. The students visit labs, talk with faculty, graduate students, and admissions staff and participate in the field ecology course at the E.S. George Reserve.

“The field of ecology and evolutionary biology remains embarrassingly monolithic in terms of ethnic and cultural diversity,” Vandermeer said. “Our Fall Recruitment Partnership is intended to try to help solve this critical problem. Several solicitations for our Frontiers Master’s Program and Ph.D. program have emerged from these preview weekends.

We are pleased to announce our September 2012 visitors and their institutions: Dana Brown, University of Missouri; Ambria McDonald, Howard University; Kirk Numa, Morehouse College; Jonathan DeSheilds, Morehouse College; Betsy (Betsabe) Castro Escobar, University of Puerto Rico.

Thanks to the EEB students who hosted visitors overnight: Clarisse Betancourt Román, Cindy Bick, Rafael D’Andrea, Serge Farinas, Beatriz Otero Jimenez. And to students who hosted a meal or provided transportation: Buck Castillo, Katherine Crocker, Naim Edwards, Alex Moore, Senay Yitbarek.

Caption: Buck Castillo (EEB Frontiers master's student), Katherine Crosman (SNRE), Naim Edwards (Frontiers master's student), Dana Brown (University of Minnesota visiting student), Clarisse Betancourt Román (EEB Frontiers master's student) having fun at the E.S. George Reserve.