Apr 28, 2022 | Atlanta, GA
Earlier this month, prospective graduate students and faculty members from more than 66 colleges and universities across the United States, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, visited Georgia Tech’s campus as part of the Office of Minority Educational Development’s 30th annual Focus Program.
Focus, a four-day graduate recruitment program, provides participants with an inside look at what it’s like to be a graduate student at Georgia Tech, including information on fellowship and scholarship opportunities and tips for success in the graduate education decision-making process.
The 2022 program was also the first time that the Georgia Tech Research Institute Participated, bringing seven Focus Fellows to learn more about GTRI and the benefits of a career in research.
“This year is a milestone for Focus, not just because it’s our 30th anniversary, but because this year we are also welcoming our largest cohort of Focus Fellows in the program’s history,” said Sybrina Atwaters, Ph.D., director of OMED.
Typically held the weekend before the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to honor his legacy, the Focus program strives to advance diversity and equity in graduate education. This year’s program is the first to be held in April, one week after the remembrance of King’s assassination.
“According to our preliminary 10-year Focus Impact Study, 76 percent of Focus participants have gone on to obtain some form of post-baccalaureate education after attending the Focus program,” explained Atwaters.
Since its inception, more than 3,000 prospective graduate students or faculty have participated in the Focus program. At least eight Focus alumni have been hired into faculty positions at Georgia Tech, and many are in tenure-track faculty positions at other institutions across the country.
While Focus Scholars are undergraduate students who are interested in Georgia Tech’s graduate programs, Focus Fellows are current doctoral students who are interested in pursuing a career in academia.
“I feel beyond honored and humbled to have been part of such an amazing experience,” one Focus participant explained. “I truly felt amongst giants when I was listening to the speakers and panelists. Focus showed me a side of me I wasn't too sure of–a side that was curious about grad school, but not sure if I should pursue it. However, being there for just a few days sparked something inside of me that I have not felt in years, something so exhilarating that I now find myself inspired and motivated to become a graduate student.”
Participants were joined by faculty, staff, and program alumni for the annual Focus President’s Dinner, where Raheem Beyah, dean of the College of Engineering and 1997 Focus alumnus, shared the challenges he faced as a young Black man in Atlanta and how he went from being a “kid from the wrong side of the tracks” to the dean of one of the largest engineering schools in the country.
“I attribute my success to four main pillars,” Beyah explained. “The first of which is hard work. My mom sacrificed so much for me and I knew that I had to be successful in order to help her, I had to out-work everyone around me.”
In describing his other three pillars of success–mentorship, luck, and the ability to hustle–he shared stories about times when his success was defined by his adaptability and relationships.
Participants rounded out the program by meeting with faculty and administrators in their college or department of interest to learn more about specific degree programs or career paths.
To learn more about the Focus Program, visit focus.gatech.edu.