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UK LEADS SOUTHERN REGIONAL
EDUCATION BOARD STATES IN PROGRAM
TO PRODUCE MINORITY PROFESSORS

By Ralph Derickson

 

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The four UK students who completed their doctorates in 2001 were: Alice Johnson, business and economics, now an assistant professor in the Belk College of Business at the University of North Carolina; Rana Johnson, communication, an employee of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education in Frankfort; Shawn Long, communication, now an assistant professor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; and Kelly Ellis, English, now a faculty member at the University of Chicago.

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May 20, 2002 (Lexington, Ky.) -- - The University of Kentucky had more graduates last year in the Southern Regional Education Board's Doctoral Scholars program than any other university within the southern states participating in the program. And with nine students working toward their doctorates this year in the program designed to increase the number of minority professors, UK may repeat its success.

The Southern Regional Education Board's (SREB) Doctoral Scholars Program was started in 1993 with funds from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Ford Foundation. It is part of a nationwide initiative, the Compact for Faculty Diversity, to increase the number of minority persons with doctorates and to encourage them to seek faculty positions.

The four UK students who completed their doctorates in 2001 were: Alice Johnson, business and economics, now an assistant professor in the Belk College of Business at the University of North Carolina; Rana Johnson, communication, an employee of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education in Frankfort; Shawn Long, communication, now an assistant professor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; and Kelly Ellis, English, now a faculty member at the University of Chicago.

Current doctoral students and their majors are A. Bethany White, English; Angela F. Cooke-Jackson, communications; Melanie Mabins, pharmacology; Joy Myree, English; Urania Pack, English; Cynthia Shelton, history; Benjamin Washington, public administration; Dominique Talbert, pharmacology, and John Youngblood, communications.

UK's four graduates were among the 100 persons earning doctorates since the program began.

More than 200 scholars are currently supported by the program. They attend 67 institutions in 23 states. The program has a student retention rate of more than 90 percent.

UK's SREB Doctoral Scholars Program is coordinated by Deneese Jones, associate dean of the Graduate School and an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in UK's College of Education.

Jones, who was recently named an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow, said the SREB program takes a lot of the financial pressure off doctoral candidates and greatly enhances their potential to pursue a successful academic career.

Jones said the program also has a way of making minority doctoral students feel less like outsiders because their numbers are so small in doctoral programs, a feeling she experienced while a doctoral student at Texas A&M.

"This program offers minority doctoral students the opportunity to work with others who understand this," she said.

Among the UK participants in the Doctoral Scholars Program who are eager to sing the program's praises is Rana Johnson, who earned a doctorate in communication in August 2001.

Johnson, who is responsible for several of CPE's Equal Employment Opportunity initiatives, said, "Without the SREB's help, I wouldn't have been able to complete my doctorate."

Johnson, who earned a bachelor of science degree from Spalding University and a master's degree from Eastern New Mexico University, added that major conferences conducted by SREB to get the doctoral scholars together are highly beneficial.

"There was just so much energy in those rooms and it created a wonderful learning and support environment," she said of a conference she attended in New Orleans, La.

"The SREB Doctoral Scholars Program empowers minority students and encourages them to endure," she said.

Shawn Long, had similar sentiments about the SREB Doctoral Scholars program.

"The program afforded me the opportunity to concentrate on my doctoral work," Long said. He pointed out that SREB generally does not condone its scholars teaching or working while they're completing their doctoral work, but an exception was made in his case "because I love teaching so much."

"UK made it happen," said Long of the exception that allowed him to teach halftime while working on his doctorate fulltime. That teaching paid off in another way, as he earned a UK Chancellor's Award for Teaching. Long also was a Lyman T. Johnson Fellow while pursuing his doctorate.

Among the current SREB Doctoral Scholars working on a doctorate at UK is Angela F. Cooke-Jackson, who is the Knight Minority Teaching Fellow at Transylvania University in Lexington.

Cooke-Jackson, who is studying for a UK communication doctorate, said the SREB Scholars program enabled her to make a fulltime commitment to earning a doctorate which she expects to receive in May 2003.

"The SREB stipend acts as a foundation to working on an education fulltime," she said. "It is a blessing to those who want to go to school."

Cooke-Jackson has a bachelor's degree form Cedarville College, Cedarville, Ohio. Her communications dissertation work is in health communications and relates to the messages shared by mothers and daughters about healthcare issues. Her mother had Type II diabetes and died in 1998.

"It was important for my mom to talk to her children and grandchildren about her disease," she said. "You hear a message and maybe you can use the message as a preventative process for others."


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