How successful were such efforts in addressing the problems of institutional exclusion and restrictive educational practices in contemporary U.S. colleges and universities? To what extent did the Ford Foundation fellowship program help increase the racial and ethnic diversity of college and university faculties? To what extent and how did the fellowships affect recipients’ professional outcomes? In other words, have recipients of the Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships for Minorities been successful in the pursuit of academic careers? Such questions are particularly critical in an era of—despite evidence of significant and positive effects of diversity on educational outcomes—increased attacks and challenges to educational democracy and rights, withdrawal and cutting of resources, and serious weakening of institutional will.
Accordingly, the National Research Council of the National Academies, which administered the fellowships on behalf of the Ford Foundation, has initiated an assessment of the program and related outcomes, which is the focus of this paper. After a brief overview of the postdoctoral program, with particular reference to fellowships in the life sciences, various aspects of programmatic success are delineated for use in understanding and framing the impact of fellowships. Building on that discussion, an overview is then provided of current in-progress efforts to assess the impact of the Ford Foundation fellowships in terms of recipient outcomes. Considering the approach and type of information required for program evaluation, particular attention is given to the type of data being collected and the manner in which it will be used for determining programmatic and individual success.
Although the focus here is on postdoctoral awards, the Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships for Minorities also included awards at the predoctoral and dissertation levels of graduate study, all aimed at the ultimate goal of increasing the presence of underrepresented groups in the U.S. professoriate. In 1979 the Fellowship Programs Office of the National Research Council began administering the postdoctoral fellowships, with awards first made in 1980, and in 1986 the program expanded to include fellowships at the predoctoral and dissertation levels. Overall, between 1980 and 2004 under the administration of the Fellowship Programs Office, 2,260 fellowships were awarded to academically promising individuals who were U.S. citizens claiming primary ethnic or racial identification with groups reflecting long-standing and severe underrepresentation on the faculties of U.S. colleges and universities—that is, Ameri-