Project upGRADS: Utilizing & Promoting Graduate Resources & Access for Disadvantaged Students

Graduate student event
California State University-Fullerton
Academic Level
Issue Area
Key Personnel
Program Focus
First Year Support,


Project upGRADS mission is to improve access to graduate education for Hispanics by addressing barriers this population commonly faces, thus improving the enrollment, persistence, and graduation of Hispanic graduate students at Cal State Fullerton (CSUF). Program goals:

  • Increase the number of Hispanic applications
  • Increase the number of Hispanic applicants who are admitted Improve the persistence of Hispanic graduate students in their first year.
  • By 2025 increase the number of Hispanic graduate students to 35% of the total graduate student population at CSUF

Program Description

To improve access to graduate programs for Latino students, Project upGRADS implemented these activities: Outreach and workshops on the value of graduate education, admissions processes, and resources and funding for graduate school. Tracking Hispanic applications with proactive 1:1 admissions advising. Summer bridge program to fine-tune student readiness plus build community and sense of belonging. Fellowship program for first-year graduate students including mentoring, networking, scholarship funds, and professional development activities. Faculty mentoring program matching new Hispanic graduate students with trained faculty allies to enhance the student's engagement with their studies. Faculty advisor and mentor training on cultural competency, understanding challenges students face, and effective communications.


Project upGRADS shares the following outcomes aligned with its overall goals.

  • Admissions Advising: Proactive advising produced higher application and admissions rates for those Hispanic students who were advised: 1) completed admissions applications (90% vs. 83% for control group) and 2) admitted (67% vs. 52.5% control group).
  • Summer Bridge Program for Admitted Hispanic graduate students: Hispanic students who completed the program had a 98.6% persistence rate during their first year in graduate school vs. 95.2% for the control group.
  • Pa'lante Fellowship: 68 new Hispanic graduate students received a Pa'lante Fellowship (mentoring, networking, professional development, and financial scholarship).
  • Cultural Competency Training: 131 individual faculty have completed the faculty training program on cultural competency since the program's inception in 2019.
  • Overall Enrollment of Hispanic graduate students: Enrollment of Hispanic graduate students has increased from 27.9% of the total graduate student population in Fall 2019 to 32.5% of total in Fall 2021.

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