“By participating in the Focus Program, I learned how to be a stronger candidate for graduate school,” said Camilla Johnson, a Virginia Tech undergraduate. “I am thankful for this program because it gave me more confidence to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering.”

For 27 years, Georgia Tech’s Focus Program has brought high-achieving students from diverse backgrounds to campus. The annual graduate recruitment weekend is held during the observance and celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday.

This month, 192 underrepresented minority students and postdocs attended, representing 81 colleges and universities from 32 states and four countries.

“Our Latinx applications to the Focus Program increased this year, and our attendance of Focus Scholars from Puerto Rico almost doubled compared to 2017,” said Sybrina Atwaters, assistant director for outreach initiatives at OMED: Educational Services, a unit of Institute Diversity’s Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion.

The three-day program includes opening and closing dinners; President’s Dinner; campus tours; department and lab visits; and panel discussions on graduate admissions, fellowships, scholarships, mentoring, and student and alumni experiences.

S. Gordon Moore Jr., the Center’s executive director, told Focus Program participants during the President’s Dinner, “Georgia Tech seeks excellence. You are not here as an underrepresented minority; you are here because you are one of the best students in the country.”

Approximately 47 percent of the 2018 Focus Program participants, who will graduate this May, have applied to graduate programs at Georgia Tech, and 37 percent received application fee waivers. Compared to last year, participant applications to Georgia Tech’s graduate programs have increased 17 percent.

“You have to believe in yourself. The Focus Program helped everyone believe that we could earn graduate degrees,” remarked Gabriela Lopez, an undergraduate student at New York University.

Since its inception, more than 3,000 students from a wide array of colleges and universities have participated in the program. Some 300 former Focus Scholars are among the Georgia Tech alumni who have earned master’s and doctoral degrees. Focus Scholars is a component of the program designed to inform juniors and seniors about the benefits of earning an advanced degree. Additionally, numerous Focus Fellows are members of Georgia Tech’s engineering faculty. Focus Fellows encourages diverse doctoral students to consider an academic career.

“The program’s level of success is due to the support of the Institute’s administration, faculty, staff, and students – with generous support from corporate sponsors like Intel,” added Atwaters.

Currently, Georgia Tech awards more doctoral degrees in engineering to all racial/ethnic minority students,1 and more undergraduate degrees in engineering to women,2 than any other school. 

To learn more about the Focus Program, visit www.focus.gatech.edu.


1Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

2 American Society for Engineering Education