Royster Fellows help undergraduates navigate advanced degree options

Caroline Bartlett, left, enjoys a conversation with her mentor, Laurie Graham.

Caroline Bartlett, left, enjoys a conversation with her mentor, Laurie Graham.

Laurie Graham knows what it means to give back to UNC-Chapel Hill. A member of The Graduate School’s Royster Society of Fellows, Graham leads the Royster Advanced Mentoring Program (RAMP). She also personally mentors undergraduate student Caroline Bartlett.

“As someone who mentored undergraduate students in my professional career and who has received mentorship as both an undergraduate and graduate student at UNC, I know the incredible impact mentors can have on the lives and trajectories of their mentees,” says Graham, a doctoral student in the School of Social Work.

RAMP is now in its fifth year. This year, 43 Royster Fellows, members of The Graduate School’s select fellowship program, have been paired with 62 Carolina Covenant Scholars, undergraduates from low-income backgrounds who have been admitted to Carolina and have the opportunity to graduate debt-free.

The mentorship pairs met officially at the program orientation organized by Graham and members of the RAMP leadership team. In addition to supporting Covenant Scholars who are exploring the idea of graduate school, this program helps Royster Fellows develop interpersonal and mentoring skills as they support their mentees.

“…the Royster program has allowed me to be mentored by someone who’s been in the exact same place and made the hard decisions that I face.”

“Had I not found mentors along the way, I know I would not be where I am today,” says Graham. “Prior to working with mentors who encouraged me to consider graduate school options, I had no conception of what graduate school could provide or how my skill set may map onto the different routes I could take with graduate education.

“Through RAMP, we hope to provide undergraduates with guidance, support and resources to help them learn more about what graduate education can offer and decide if pursuing graduate school feels like a good fit.”

RAMP mentors also seek to demystify the graduate school application process, help provide a window into what it is like to be a graduate student and inform undergraduates about the wide array of advanced degree options.

Bartlett says the program has been a blessing to her. “As an undergraduate, you face many big decisions, and honestly, the future looms over you sometimes. However, the Royster program has allowed me to be mentored by someone who’s been in the exact same place and made the hard decisions that I face. It is really comforting to get Laurie’s advice, and I have definitely gained so much from her experience and knowledge!”