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Featured Profile—University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)

Example Programs and Activities

  • Monthly Success Seminars: Topics include creating a successful relationship with your advisor and selecting and changing advisors. In addition, our new student orientation includes a panel of students, faculty and staff that discuss the transition to graduate school.


  • Ph.D. Completion Workshops/Seminars: Some events are held on Saturdays for students who cannot attend during the week. Individual and group mentoring sessions are also available on a weekly basis both in person and via chat room technology and e-mail. At “Dissertation House,” an intensive two-day,
  • Dissertation house on campus community-building writing retreat, students focus on making progress on their dissertations. With Phase II grant funds we plan to extend the concept to include mini retreats throughout the academic year that do not require an overnight stay.

  • Individual and Group Counseling: Programs are available for all graduate students through University Counseling Services and the PROMISE program. Peer mentors encourage students to meet with Graduate School staff prior to making a decision to change or leave their programs. This extra mentoring has been crucial in our retention efforts. Recently we started two special groups with counseling cohorts led by a professional university counselor—one focused on general issues faced by graduate students and the other on issues specific to dissertation completion. We plan to expand to additional cohorts based on the success of these existing groups.


  • Ph.D. Candidacy Ceremony and Certificate: We formally recognize students who have progressed to candidacy. In the five years that we have recognized candidacy we have seen a steady rise in the number of students reaching this important milestone
  • (from 75 to 107), and more importantly, an increase in the number of students reaching the milestone in a timely manner. The program is very popular with the research mentors since they are recognized as well. PROMISE Students' Candidacy Reception 2007

  • Dissertation Fellowship Award: Because of our proximity to many federal agencies and laboratories, several of our programs have part-time doctoral students that take many years to complete their degrees. We found that as students were nearing the end of their programs progress was often stalled because it is easy to put off writing when faced with other challenges at work and at home. We offer ten awards per year to provide students with release time from work to complete writing and/or data collection. The fellowships also support students who are not being supported by their programs. Support for dissertation fellowships is a priority for UMBC’s current capital campaign.


  • Graduate Student Association (GSA) Programs: The GSA has chartered discipline-based graduate student organizations in most departments and graduate programs. The organizations offer social activities and new student mentoring, host prospective student visitors and help new students find housing and get settled. The GSA is launching a peer mentoring program through these organizations to smooth the first-year transition. Several organizations send a representative to faculty meetings to represent student concerns. In the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, students invite faculty to their weekly high tea. A priority during Phase II will be to ask groups in all programs/departments to explore community-building activities.
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The Featured Profile* section highlights partner universities that have developed creative and/or effective approaches to optimizing Ph.D. completion, particularly for underrepresented minorities and women. Featured Profiles may include details about the structure and design of the project, the shape and effectiveness of implementation, results of recent or ongoing data analyses, and/or information about notable project leaders. For more general profiles of each participating university (including contact information and a list of participating programs), please see Project Participants.

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*If you would like your university to be featured in this section, please contact Nathan Bell.

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