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MSU program looks to boost diversity

Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University

STARKVILLE — Mississippi State University (MSU) is working to reach underserved communities through a new mentoring program that encourages minority students to pursue veterinary medicine and graduate degrees in the biological sciences.

MSU received a grant from the National Science Foundation to collaborate with three of the state’s historically black institutions of higher learning — Alcorn State University, Jackson State University and Tougaloo College. The enrollment, location and historical background of these institutions present an opportunity to recruit minority students for graduate programs.

“These institutions have outstanding undergraduate students who are highly motivated and the type of students we want to see in our veterinary and graduate programs,” said Dr. Stephen Pruett, head of the Department of Basic Sciences at MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Minority students showing an interest in science apply for the program during their sophomore year. To be considered for admission, students must have a grade point average of at least 3.0, demonstrate an aptitude for science in their coursework and submit a personal essay.

An admissions committee will select two students each from Alcorn, Jackson State and Tougaloo and four students from MSU. Students will receive a fellowship stipend, which will enable them to conduct research and complete their bachelor’s degree at the home institution.

Statistics from the U.S. Census indicate that 93 percent of veterinarians are white. According to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, only 2.5 percent of the 2009 graduating class of veterinary students in the United States was black.

The veterinary profession in the United States has remained relatively homogeneous for 25 years despite efforts by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges to diversify enrollment. According to the association’s statistics, minority enrollments in U.S. veterinary colleges was 5.9 percent of total enrollment in 1981. By 2006, minority enrollment had only risen 4 percent.

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