Barbara Kufiadan BS’19 knows what it’s like to be the only Black student in class; specifically, the only Black woman. “It felt isolating and like no one was listening to my ideas,” Kufiadan says. “I’m working to change that.”
While still a student at the U, she helped launch the Black Cultural Center (BCC). And since graduating, she created the Black Grad Girl website and Instagram page to encourage more Black women to pursue graduate school by providing a community to rely on. She’s also U Alumni’s co-leader of the Black Alumni Chapter.
How did you get involved with the Black Cultural Center?
When I started at the U, I knew that I needed to find and form a community. My now best friend Alexis Baker BS’19 came up with the idea of a BCC. We talked about how amazing it would be for Black students, faculty, and staff to have their own space. After researching similar places, Alexis and I started writing a proposal letter with the help of faculty, other students, and some staff. We presented the idea to then-U president Ruth Watkins, and it came to fruition. I don’t think we ever thought we would be the ones to bring it to life, even with the help of those around us and those who came before us.
What is Black Grad Girl, and how did you get it started?
I started Black Grad Girl my last semester of graduate school at The University of Texas, where I got my Master of Public Affairs. It was such a learning curve in my experience of being a first-generation student. There was a lot about the process that nobody was talking about. So, I thought that it was important to have a platform where Black women would be able to share and ask questions about graduate school. I try to provide insight or find somebody who can help.
What’s the role of exposure and representation in this?
It’s essential to see Black people in different areas, particularly Black women, who aren’t usually showcased. I want to share the resiliency required to get through graduate school and build a community.
What resources/events could be introduced to increase the population of Black women in graduate schools?
I think universities need to be intentional about not just recruiting but retaining Black students. There are things that should be dismantled, like the GRE requirement. It should be optional for every graduate program, because it’s not a factor toward success. You can still perform well without it. I also think that getting more information about how to apply to graduate school or programs is important. This way students know their options clearly after undergrad. Something to think about is waiving application fees, as those can deter Black students from a socioeconomic standpoint.