Graduate School Welcomes New Students

By Linda Haymes

It was the first such in-person orientation the Graduate School has held since 2019. Nearly 30 of this year’s 83 new graduate students attended in person while the rest logged in remotely.

Campus representatives from areas including the UAMS Library, Student Financial Services, the Student Success Center and the Graduate Student Association visited with the new students at various tables during a 90-minute fair.

Deidra Harber of Yazoo City, Mississippi, a graduate assistant in the College of Pharmacy, visited with Janice Nottenkamper, student financial manager with the UAMS Student Financial Services Debt Management department.

Deidra Harber of Yazoo City, Mississippi, a graduate assistant in the College of Pharmacy, visited with Janice Nottenkamper, student financial manager with the UAMS Student Financial Services Debt Management department.

Deidra Harber of Yazoo City, Mississippi, a graduate assistant in the College of Pharmacy, visited with Janice Nottenkamper, student financial manager with the UAMS Student Financial Services Debt Management department. Meanwhile, at a nearby table, Marla Meneses of Little Rock, a medical scholars and public health education scholar, visited with Nick Pettus from the Division of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion.

The students later gathered in the first-floor auditorium to hear presentations from Angie Tapp of the Student Wellness Program, Brian Gittens, Ed.D, vice chancellor for the Division of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, followed by McGehee.

“It’s not a coincidence that the first two things you heard about were student wellness and diversity,” McGehee said after welcoming the students. “We take both of those very seriously.”

“Of our six colleges here, our Graduate School is the most diverse,” McGehee said. “The worse thing for us last year was that, due to the pandemic, we had zero international students,” he told the students, many who come from across the nation and the world. “With travel restrictions and immigration regulations between their countries and ours, no one could get here because of COVID.”

“On March 12, 2020, we sent out an email that said ‘You’ve got two hours to wrap everything up, go home and wait to hear from us,” he recalled of when the pandemic hit Arkansas. “We didn’t know what the future would bring. When we returned after spring break, we’d moved from having 20 to 25 percent of our courses online and had pivoted to 100 percent online using Zoom and other platforms.”

“We are fully committed to seeing you graduate, and we have one of the highest rates of completion of Ph.D. students in the country, but we are even more interested in seeing you graduate well. If you finish here with a degree but were reduced to tears and a nervous breakdown along the way, we haven’t done our jobs,” McGehee said.

He also stressed how outstanding each student accepted into the Graduate School is.

“For every one of you that was selected for this program, there are 10 or 11 others who weren’t selected,” he said.

McGehee also spoke about the approximately 350 faculty and and staff members leading the students.

“Every single one of the faculty members is hired with an appointment in one of the other colleges, and then get joint appointments in the Graduate School,” he said. “The faculty that are members of the Graduate School are here because they want to be and are genuinely dedicated to paying it forward to the next generation of scientists,” he said.

He explained that UAMS is not just a medical school but also a place where patients are treated and a lot of landmark research occurs.

“Everything we do is based on teamwork. The days of the old mad scientist hunched over his bench by himself trying to solve the mysteries of life are a thing of the past.”

“We’re a small school compared to some places like Baylor College of Medicine, but we are the only comprehensive medical center in Arkansas, and the experiments you’ll be working on will be cutting-edge studies that are funded competitively by federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health.

“Our students are very competitive when they leave,” McGehee said. “A Ph.D. from here prepares you for much more than the discipline you studied.”


UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise including its hospital, regional clinics and clinics it operates or staffs in cooperation with other providers. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. U.S. News & World Report recognized UAMS Medical Center as a Best Hospital for 2021-22; ranked its ear, nose and throat program among the top 50 nationwide for the third year; and named five areas as high performing — colon cancer surgery, diabetes, hip replacement, knee replacement and stroke. Forbes magazine ranked UAMS as seventh in the nation on its Best Employers for Diversity list. UAMS also ranked in the top 30% nationwide on Forbes’ Best Employers for Women list and was the only Arkansas employer included. UAMS has 2,876 students, 898 medical residents and six dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

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