Purdue’s Big Ten+ Graduate School Exposition is a one-stop shop for information about grad study
Over 400 students attended in 2009. They checked out grad programs and met with representatives from sixty-nine nationally ranked institutions
By Harriet King
'The Big Ten+ Graduate School Exposition is different,” says Susan K. Fisher, director of graduate programs for the College of Engineering at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN).
“Most universities holding graduate school fairs do so just for their own students and hold them for only a few hours on the appointed day,” explains Fisher. At the Grad Expo, students from all over the country are invited to attend, and multiple schools participate in the two-day event.
“The expo presents students a unique opportunity to become acquainted with the means to realize their goals,” says Fisher. “It’s targeted to students interested in fields related to science, technology, engineering and math, commonly known as the STEM disciplines.”
The expo features workshops on funding opportunities and selecting and applying to grad programs. Students from a variety of institutions and organizations are invited, including McNair Scholars, Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program participants, honors students, summer research program participants and many more.
“Everything is geared toward providing these potential graduate students with a rewarding experience,” says Fisher. “Even the funds we receive from booths at the fair provide a number of students from outside Purdue with travel scholarships to attend.”
Students explore programs with professors
According to Dana Werner, director of Purdue’s graduate student recruitment services, this event is an opportunity for students to have personal interactions with professors at Purdue and other institutions. And there are workshops on topics ranging from how to develop competitive admissions or fellowship applications, to preparing for standardized tests, to career opportunities in select fields.
Werner’s office leads the planning, coordination and promotion. “The Grad Expo offers Purdue the opportunity to assist and mentor students who are considering graduate school by helping them effectively prepare for pursuing an advanced degree, as well as finding potential programs from across the nation that match their interests,” says Werner.
The Grad Expo includes Big Ten peer schools with STEM strength
The expo was developed six years ago by Purdue University’s graduate school and College of Engineering for institutions in the Big Ten Conference seeking to recruit quality students for their STEM grad programs. Purdue also invited other universities considered to be on the same level in the STEM disciplines.
Today, the event’s organizing committee chooses additional schools from those that have submitted registration requests. Registration fees cover the event and travel scholarships for many of the students, including airfare, airport transfers, gas and hotel accommodations.
2009 attendance was strong
Workshop presenters have included the National Science Foundation, National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc (GEM), the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and, as Werner notes, “representatives from institutions of higher education whose characteristics and available programs are likely to match the interests of student attendees.”
More than 100 recruiters from nationally ranked institutions attended the 2009 fair. Sixty-nine institutions and organizations had ninety-eight booths.
In addition to the Big Ten, representatives attended from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, American Society for Engineering Education, Arizona State, Carnegie Mellon, City University of New York, Columbia, Cornell, the DoD, Duke, Georgetown, Lehigh, Marquette, Notre Dame, Princeton, the SMART Scholarship Program, Texas A&M, University of California (Davis, Irvine, Merced and Los Angeles), University of Southern California, University of Chicago and Yale.
More than 400 students participated, representing 132 institutions, including many HBCUs and Hispanic-serving institutions. Attendees’ GPAs averaged 3.58 and more than 50 percent were interested in earning doctoral degrees.
Students get answers at the expo
Students considering graduate study in STEM, pharmaceutical sciences, and related fields are eligible to attend. The focus is on masters and PhD degrees. The registration fee includes workshops, meals, networking activities and the grad fair.
Roundtable discussions provide an opportunity to network with university representatives and discuss topics one to one. Students develop a feel for which institution might be right for them. Workshop topics cover funding a graduate education, choosing a graduate school program, and getting into grad school.
Students learn what grad schools look for, how to write a compelling personal statement, and how to prepare for the GRE. They also explore scholarship and fellowship programs. Some students have found the expo so helpful that they’ve attended more than once.
Travel scholarship awards are made by a committee that reviews student applications, and are based on GPA, rigor of the student’s program, research experience, teaching experience, presentations and leadership and honors. About one-third of the student attendees received travel scholarships in 2009.
Students appreciate the expo
GEM fellow Alen Jones, now a candidate for an MSEE at Purdue, attended the 2008 Big Ten+ Expo because Purdue was one of his top grad school choices. Jones, who did his undergrad work at Southern University and A&M College (Baton Rouge, LA), received a travel grant to attend.
“I enjoyed everything about it,” says Jones, “including the workshops and seminars.” It gave him the chance to “visit” other schools and see if any sparked an interest. “After the Expo, I knew that Purdue University was the right school for me!”
Alice Madjani only had to walk across campus to participate in the Expo. As a Purdue undergrad, she attended the fair during her junior and senior years. “It motivated me to start thinking about grad school and what I needed to achieve in order to be ready to apply,” she says. “It’s never too early to think about grad school and researching what’s out there.”
Madjani found the expo helpful for gathering both material and tips to enhance her grad school applications. She decided to remain at Purdue and is pursuing her MSCE.
Derrick Moore heard about the Big Ten+ Expo from fellow interns at Delphi Electronics and Safety (Troy, MI). He decided to attend because “It would give me the opportunity to meet faculty and explore research projects that were being undertaken by electrical and computer engineering professors.”
Moore also received a travel fellowship from Southern University and A&M College. “I learned how to apply to graduate schools, write the best essays, critique my resume, select an advisor, apply for fellowships and, more importantly, how to network and survive,” he says.
He’s now a GEM fellow working on his masters at Purdue’s College of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Moore is vice president of the Black Graduate Association.
The 2010 Expo is in September
The Grad Expo is promoted nationally to undergraduate researchers, honor society members, and students who attend grad school events that Purdue participates in.
Attendees are asked for an after-event evaluation, and most rave about the expo, Fisher says. One first-generation college student who was initially overwhelmed by the idea of going to grad school was reassured. Others have mentioned extensive insider information about applying for grad school, exposure to several schools and perspectives, hearing discussions and lectures and seeing Purdue.
The next Big Ten+ Grad School Expo will be held on September 26 and 27, 2010. For more information, go to www.purdue.edu/gradexpo.
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