Over the last 20 years, I’ve had a very significant number of graduate students that have come from overseas. It’s a cultural shock for them once they arrive, especially if they’re visiting US for the first time and they often have a steep learning curve. I can specifically remember one individual I had in my lab as an intern who had come in from Latin America. He was a very good worker, and as an intern he started showing interest in our research programs. In fact, he started going out to the fields to collect data even though it was not required of him.
So, a couple of months into his internship, I asked him, “What are your plans after you finish your undergraduate degree?”
He said, “Well, I’ll go back and see what I can do!”
I then enquired if he had considered graduate school. To my surprise, he just broke down. I was not expecting that kind of a response from him, and naturally I asked him about his well-being. When he pulled himself together, he said,
“Nobody has ever asked me that question. Perhaps you don’t know about the grades I have earned?”
At that time, and to my utter surprise, I learned that he had a GPA of 1.8. I responded by saying,
“Well, I’ve had many graduate students who have gone through my lab and I could easily spot one. To me, you are graduate student material. Would you be willing to be my graduate student?”
You could imagine how this was over and above his dreams. And, just to be clear, it was nothing short of what he deserved, because I had observed him work in my lab for the past couple months and I knew he was capable. He said he would be delighted to be part of my graduate student research program. So, he applied to CSU graduate school and of course, the graduate school rejected his application – and rightly so, because he needed a 3.0 GPA or higher to earn admission into graduate school.
After much pondering, I wrote a letter to the graduate school stating that “I know this individual who has been working in my lab as an intern, and based on my observation, I see him worthy of graduate student status.”
Luckily, graduate school accepted my plea and offered a probationary time period of one semester with a condition that this individual must earn a 3.0 GPA or higher to prove that he truly is graduate school material.
So, he took three or perhaps four courses in the first semester and worked really hard. I could tell that he was really, really wanting to make a difference for himself. Nobody had ever believed in him or believed that he could do this. And he did – he made a GPA of >3.0 in the first semester, and later on successfully graduated. He worked hard, and many years later he continues to do well in life.
I think, he felt valued, welcomed, and included to be part of our team. I know that getting into research labs is not an easy task to accomplish. When he first came to Colorado, he was there just to be an intern and earn some experience to meet the requirements of his undergraduate program. He never knew that he would be invited to the table, and in doing so his life would forever change.
Profile written by Dr. Raj Khosla.