URI Graduate School seeing best numbers in 10 years

Applications, enrollment up sharply from 2008

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 8, 2010 – Applications to the University of Rhode Island Graduate School have increased more than 26 percent since 2008 while total new enrollment in the school has risen more than 18 percent for the same period.

“We have not seen growth like this in the previous 10 years,” said Nasser Zawia, interim dean of the Graduate School and professor of pharmacy. “We worked at improving areas critical to graduate school admission and enrollment. Now, our operation is centralized and efficient.

Nationally, applications are up slightly, but enrollment at graduate schools remained the same, Zawia said. But at URI applications and enrollment are up dramatically.

In 2008, 2,441 individuals applied to the Graduate School, but in 2010, 3,106 applied. Total new enrollment in 2008 was 739, but it jumped to 883 in 2010.

In addition, URI is attracting large numbers of graduate students from other states and countries. In fact, while Rhode Islanders represent the largest group in the graduate school (1,025 full- and part-time students), URI enrolls about 600 full-time graduate students from other states and countries compared to about 420 from Rhode Island. Of the 23 doctoral programs offered by URI, only two, education and physical therapy, have more in-state students than those from other states or countries. Out-of-state and international students dominate such disciplines as psychology, English, oceanography, environment and life sciences, pharmacy, electrical engineering, business and chemistry.

The dean said this approach is in line with URI President David M. Dooley’s vision for strengthening the presence of international students in the University’s undergraduate and graduate programs as a way to enhance the global experience of all students. Zawia said the goal is to have students share in a variety of experiences that lead to enhanced understanding of other nations and cultures thus becoming more engaged global citizens.

Zawia said such strength is the result of hard work by all members of his team since he took over 20 months ago.

The Graduate School’s website was updated and branded, the school added technology and recruitment personnel and it began working much more closely with departments.

“Now when people enter ‘graduate school” on Google we come up as one of the first five entries, and we are always listed on the first page,” Zawia said. “Now our site is averaging 500 hits a day.

The Graduate School also sent printed materials to 20 countries, and subscribed to a number of email services targeted at international students.

Zawia credits Provost Donald H. DeHayes for his strong support of the Graduate School. “Without his support and resource allocation, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

The Graduate School is moving to a new admission system that is used at such schools as Duke and Stanford universities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is similar to the Common Application used for undergraduate admission at URI and other schools.

The graduate school’s 2,200 students are enrolled in 25 doctoral programs and 33 master’s programs. If URI’s graduate certificate and non-degree offerings are added, about 3,000 students enroll in URI graduate courses.

“Most people do not know this, but we offer more graduate degrees than Brown University,” Zawia said. “If you take our 58 programs and you look at the various tracks of each one, you come up with 270 different graduate opportunities. We are a major public institution with $104 million in research funding that offers a wide array of programs.”

Zawia said he and his team guide students from the admission process through their graduation, including advising and working with their faculty members.

“We’re building a community with a great team that enhances credibility,” Zawia said.