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Focus on Diversity

Graduate programs see 71 percent increase in students of color

At her previous university, Hind Al Jurf, ’20, G’22, focused her time and energy on passing exams. Now, as part of an increasingly diverse graduate student body at Bridgewater State University, she’s also mastering the very skills she knows prospective employers will demand.

“I’m not the same person I was when I entered the university,” said Hind, who came to BSU as an undergraduate transfer student and is working on a Master of Business Administration degree. “The amount of opportunities and activities and assignments you can do really helped me learn.”

As the region diversifies, BSU has seen the number of its graduate students of color increase 71 percent between fall of 2016 and fall of 2020. As of 2020, there were 248 such students enrolled, comprising 15 percent of the graduate student body.

The growth partly reflects a focus on encouraging Bridgewater undergraduates to continue their studies with an advanced degree. Early admission allows some undergraduates to take courses that count simultaneously for master’s and bachelor’s degrees.

College administrators also focus on hiring more faculty of color. Meanwhile, agreements with schools and employers such as the University of Cabo Verde; Dean College; and the human service organization, Justice Resource Institute, encourage their students and workers to further their education.

“We’re all working to make sure our students in graduate programs reflect the population in Southeastern Massachusetts,” said Paul Cincotta, graduate admissions director. “Having a diverse population in any graduate program really leads to a more enriching education for all students because of the perspectives everybody brings.”

Kemi Taiwo, G’23, appreciates interacting with classmates and professors in the public administration program.

“You can take whatever it is you have been talking about in class and put it into your personal life,” Kemi said.

Kemi, who took classes online from her native Nigeria for much of the pandemic, remained committed to her education even during Zoom meetings at midnight Nigerian time.

Now studying on campus, she also works in the Academic Achievement Center, building the confidence of students whose first language is not English.

Being a BSU graduate student, in turn, helped Kemi come out of her shell.

“It’s exposing me to America,” she said.

Hind, whose undergraduate math professors recommended the MBA program, appreciated the realistic simulations in Dr. Stanley Ross’ strategic management class.

“We do case studies and write reports and discuss it as if it’s a real company,” she said. “It’s a challenge, but I like it.”

Both students praised the broad applicability of their graduate work.

“It helps very much,” Hind said of the MBA degree. “You’re a generalist. You can work in a bank, do accounting, or have a management role. It opens up options to do everything.”

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