Holistic admissions project taps USC expert for research role

February 21, 2018

Julie Posselt will help advise new grant initiative at UC Davis and UCLA

By Ross Brenneman

Julie Posselt, Assistant Professor

A new $1.2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will aim to institutionalize holistic graduate admissions in selected humanities programs and related PhD programs at UCLA and UC Davis.

To help complete the project, principal investigator Prasant Mohapatra, dean of graduate studies at UC Davis, has recruited Julie Posselt, an assistant professor of higher education at USC Rossier and a nationally recognized expert in the field of graduate education research. Posselt played a key advisory role in the pilot program upon which the new grant is based.

Called the Alliance for Multicampus, Inclusive Graduate Admissions, or AMIGA, the project will explore admissions barriers that prevent increased diversity and equity in gradate programs. A holistic admissions process allows institutions to consider a wide array of applicant characteristics, in addition to academic measures.

Under the new grant, Posselt will remain an adviser, while adding new research and assessment roles as well. A Rossier PhD student will assist in the work.

“If universities and graduate programs want to honestly tell the public and students from underrepresented groups that they value diversity, then they need to create more equitable systems for evaluating and educating students,” Posselt said. “This project is an exciting, feasible step to move humanities PhD programs in that direction.”

UC Davis and UCLA first began exploring possibilities for institutionalizing holistic admissions in 2016-17 using a $150,000 exploratory grant from Mellon. The project directors brought in Posselt to advise on activities, including the development of quarterly forums that brought together faculty and administrators across the UC system.

In her new research role, Posselt, will be planning project forums that share current research, offer professional development to faculty and convene project leaders and others interested in graduate admissions around the country.

For her assessment role, Posselt will lead multi-method research that examines over four years the efficacy of the project’s efforts to institutionalize holistic review. And she’ll study how faculty views and practices develop with regard to graduate admissions.

The grant runs until 2022.

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