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Graduate students shine through fellowship program

Ashley Harris’ presentation on first generation college students.

Brittany Henderson

Brittany Henderson

Ashley Harris’ presentation on first generation college students.


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The Whitney M. Young Graduate Fellowship Symposium showcases the work of graduate fellows, annually.

According to their webpage, The Whitney M. Young Graduate Fellowship is a program that was designed to memorialize the former executive director of the National Urban league, educator and activist Whitney M. Young Jr.

The two-year program is aimed at helping students “achieve their educational and professional goals and to complement their academic studies with research and/or service opportunities in the public affairs or public policy.”

It also tries to help give different opportunities to graduate students that are “underrepresented in graduate study at UIS.”

In order to be considered for admission to this program, one to have a GPA of 3.0 throughout their undergraduate study, be admitted to a graduate degree program at UIS and be either a U.S. citizen or a residential alien.

Considering involvement in the program limits the amount of hours a student can work, individuals receive a tuition waiver for a certain amount of credit hours each semester and a monthly stipend to help them financially.

“We try to limit their working responsibility,” said Kamau Kemayo, the associate director of the program. “There are only so many hours in a day, and there is other work that they have to do.”

“The program requires fellows to commit full time to their graduate work,” said Cecilia Cornell, director of the program. “We [also] require a service component that asks fellows to carry on and to build upon the service and leadership legacy of Whitney M. Young.”

On top of all the other positive aspects of this program, if funding allows, individuals may be sent to a conference that pertains to their particular area of study.

For the past seven years, the program has put on a symposium, open to the public, to allow the fellows an opportunity to share what projects they have been working on. The 10 Whitney M. Young graduate students presented at this year’s symposium that took place this past Friday, Feb. 14. Four presented in front of the entire group, while the other six presented at tables the room. “The symposium does give a number of the students the opportunity to develop presentational skills, as well as verbal skills,” said Kemayo. “We do not want to just showcase to the campus, but also to the community.”

“I think it is a wonderful program that gives those who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to do a master’s program the chance to do [one],” said Roslyn Simmons-Lindsay, a Whitney Young fellow. “I like the fact that it is a small group of people and that we are really able to be each other’s support system.”

For more information on the Whitney M. Young graduate program, please visit

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