One way to accomplish such a transition would be to encourage strategic partnerships18 with minority-serving institutions (MSIs) including historically black colleges, as well as with the National Society of Black Physicists and the National Society of Hispanic Physicists. A related path would be to encourage graduate programs to recruit their master’s and Ph.D. candidates at MSIs.

Role models are important in any field and have been particularly crucial in improving the number of women astronomers. Using the Harlow Shapley Visiting Lectureship Program19 proactively to target students in MSIs, and rebuilding NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Program20 to engage STEM students in mission-related work, are two approaches that have provided role models to minorities. Finally, the committee suggests that the federal agencies establish a competitive program of summer programs and leaves of absence for teachers from MSIs with a proven record of educating minority scientists, to participate in research at national facilities and research universities. Programs like this, if thoughtfully managed, would provide a bridge for minority students from a bachelor’s to an advanced degree. It is important that the success of such programs be monitored and that rigorous metrics for success be established at the outset, providing an opportunity for longitudinal tracking of minority students and learning how to improve programs through their experience.

CONCLUSION: Little progress has been made in increasing the number of minorities in astronomy. Agencies, astronomy departments, and the community as a whole need to refocus their efforts toward attracting members of underrepresented minorities to the field.

The following are some approaches that can be adopted to help in attracting members of minorities to astronomy and in retaining them in the field:

  • Targeted mentoring programs;

  • Partnerships of community colleges and minority-serving institutions with research universities and with national centers and laboratories;

18

Promising examples of programs along these lines have been established at the University of Washington, at Columbia University, and in a partnership between Vanderbilt University and Fisk University.

19

The Harlow Shapley Visiting Lectureship Program of the American Astronomical Society is a program of 2-day visits by professional astronomers who bring the excitement of modern astronomy and astrophysics to colleges of all types. See http://aas.org/shapley.

20

NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) engages underrepresented populations through a wide variety of initiatives. Multiyear grants are awarded to assist minority institution faculty and students in research of pertinent missions. See http://www.nasa.gov/offices/education/programs/national/murep/home/index.html.



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