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Graduate administrator aims to recruit, prepare more women scientists

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations
Working with students and helping them find their place in a world of science and discovery is the goal of researcher and graduate school administrator Cynthia F. Wright, Ph.D.

Dr. Cynthia Wright

As associate dean for admissions and career development in the College of Graduate Studies, Wright has to find a balance between meeting the needs of students as she guides them through their academic careers and traveling around the nation and globe to recruit some of the best students into MUSC’s programs.

Wright is one of eight women at MUSC being honored throughout March as part of the National Women’s History Project. The university solicits nominations for women to be featured during the month of March who exemplify leadership qualities and who make significant contributions in their fields.

At a time when there are so many qualified students seeking to enter graduate school, many students possess valuable research experience and other skills that make the selection process challenging. MUSC’s graduate school is focused on recruiting students for research careers in medicine, dental medicine and pharmacy.

“We’re looking for the strongest, most qualified candidates that will be the best fit and achieve success through our programs,” Wright said, who works along with Perry V. Halushka, M.D., Ph.D., College of Graduate Studies dean, in all graduate school recruitment.

“She’s absolutely a delight to work with and has enhanced the College of Graduate Studies’ ability to recruit talented students seeking a research career,” said Halushka.

The college is about par with the national average for graduate school recruitment which reports about 60 percent of candidates as female. And like most programs, it’s the college’s priority to retain the students they recruit. To achieve this, administration is committed to promoting mentoring involvement among faculty throughout the institution. Wright works with Ed Krug, Ph.D., assistant dean of post-doctoral affairs, College of Graduate Studies, in addressing this issue and guiding post-doctoral scholars

“Women scientists today have so many career choices available to them,” Wright said. “Post-doctoral scholars can enter select teaching careers in small, liberal arts schools, conduct research or work in other alternative careers such as scientific writing. The opportunities are there.”

Additionally, Wright also has focused on expanding diversity within the college. She’s currently a principal investigator on three diversity training grants designed to recruit and train students and post-doctoral scholars, and organizes workshops to teach skills and promote career development. She’s also the faculty advisor to the Multicultural Graduate Student Association, which supports students and promotes campus and community involvement. In 2007, she attended the MUSC Trustees Leadership Academy studying executive leadership and helping to hone her skills in academic leadership.

“Dr. Wright is an asset to the college because she is both personable and approachable,” said DeAnna Baker, a fourth-year Medical Scientist in Training Program student. “It’s very easy to talk to her about any aspect of her career, which is very helpful, especially as I’m in the early stages of career development. She has been a successful researcher and grant writer, which encourages future women scientists.”

Wright and Krug also collaborate with Claflin University School of Natural Science and Mathematics program that allows MUSC post-doctoral students to interact with faculty and students to promote careers in the biological sciences and research.

From her early years, Wright felt comfortable discovering science behind the lens of a microscope. The daughter of a career U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant, Wright was familiar with travel and change. She earned her undergraduate degree in microbiology from the University of Florida and doctorate at State University of New York in Albany in 1984. She went on to complete her post-doctoral work at the National Institutes of Health and became chief of the molecular pathology division at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C. before arriving at MUSC in 1996. She was tapped to become assistant dean for admissions in Graduate Studies in 2006.

Wright, who’s married and the mother of a Clemson University sophomore daughter, is pleased that she has managed to balance her career as a scientist with family. She considers Rosalie Crouch, Ph.D., and Maria Buse, M.D., both Distinguished University Professors in the Department of Medicine, active researchers, and successful mothers, as her role models.

“Cindy’s very forward thinking and such an asset to the college and university. She brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to her position. She is a great role model for students, especially women, regarding her experience and career advice,” Halushka said.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.