The School of Medicine Has GRIT!

November 14, 2019 by School of Medicine Webmaster

(l-r) Evan Brown, GRIT Council (Biology); Darius Carter, GRIT Co-President (SEAS); Beverly Miller, GRIT Council (SEAS); Brittany Martinez, GRIT Co-President (BIMS), and Catherine Robertson, GRIT Council (BIMS).

The School of Medicine’s Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) program has helped to establish a new alliance of graduate programs that is championing diversity and inclusion within our student body. Known as the Graduate Recruitment Initiative Team (GRIT), the alliance also includes the Department of Biology in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

Maya Cabot, GRIT Council (BIMS)

In October, the group held its second annual GRIT Day which drew about 70 participants and yielded the following recommendations:

  • Start a “Declines” Survey | Modeled after a process already in place for BIMS, Biology and SEAS could survey students who decline our acceptance offers to discover why and, ultimately, how UVA can become a first-choice school for more graduate students.
  • Conduct Exit Interviews | Ask students why they are leaving a program to gain insights about what changes could lead to greater student retention.
  • Improve Mentoring | Provide added support to faculty mentors so they can be more effective and engaged in the student experience. Faculty provide the continuity needed to sustain student-initiated changes and improvements.


GRIT originated at the University of Chicago and was established at UVA in 2018. A student-led organization that collaborates with faculty, GRIT supports the recruitment and retention of students with disabilities, women, underrepresented minorities (URM), and LGBTQ+ students in doctoral programs in the participating Schools at the University of Virginia.

Highlights of GRIT’s first year at UVA include:

  • Data Collection: GRIT gathered data about women and minorities who applied, recruited, and matriculated in the participating programs to identify potential areas of improvement.
  • Networking: GRIT has begun building a network of collaborators, including Women in Medical Sciences, the Latinx Graduate Student Alliance, the Graduate Society of Women Engineers, the Graduate Student and Post-doc Association and the Graduate Engineering Student Council.
  • UVA Representation: GRIT members represented UVA at major fall recruiting conferences, the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (Anaheim, California) and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (Honolulu, Hawai‘i).

As GRIT moves into its second year, the organization plans to reach out to applicants who have questions about student life at UVA, the application process, or anything about which they may be curious.

How Can You Support GRIT?

  • Attend the Spring 2020 Town Hall: Stay tuned for more details about a GRIT townhall focused on the graduate student recruitment season.
  • Diversify Your Guest Speakers: Working with Women in Medical Sciences, GRIT will be contacting faculty and staff who organize seminars to encourage them to book speakers who are representative of science as a whole. (Note to faculty: If you’re thinking about invitees for an upcoming seminar, lecture, or panel discussion, GRIT wants you to take a moment to think of someone from a different demographic and add them to your list.)

GRIT is helping our school become a place where diversity and inclusion expand and flourish. I am deeply appreciative for the efforts of our BIMS students, faculty, and cross-Grounds partners for focusing on these GRITty issues.

R.J. Canterbury, MD, MS, DLFAPA
Wilford W. Spradlin Professor
Senior Associate Dean for Education

Filed Under: Education