For the past two decades, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville has had the highest graduation rates for Black students of any public university in the United States. But the Office of African American Affairs at the university aims to not only graduate Black students at the University of Virginia but to boost the academic success of these students to a level where they will be able to compete for the best jobs and for places in the highest-ranked graduate schools.
Incoming African American students are paired with mentors who help them navigate the transition into academic life. Students are given the opportunity to have small-group tutoring sessions and can participate in seminars to help them examine study abroad and internship opportunities.
Patrice Preston Grimes, associate dean of the Office of African American Affairs and a professor of education at the University of Virginia stated that “We recognized that it was not sufficient to graduate from a college or university, but it was important that they graduate well. ‘Well’ in that they had solid GPAs, competencies and skills to be competitive in the workplace, in graduate schools or in public service.” Dr. Grimes is a graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She holds a master’s degree and a doctorate in educational studies from Emory University in Atlanta.
The efforts are paying off. Recent research shows that the percentage of Black students at the University of Virginia who have a grade point average of at least 3.0 increased from 37.4 percent in 2009 to 51.9 percent in 2014. In 2007, 17.3 percent of Black students graduated with high honors. In 2012, more than 30 percent of the Black students graduated with high honors.