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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN 6 SELECTION CRITERIA (STUDENTS AND CONSORTIA) SELECTION OF STUDENTS The primary selection point will be in the student's senior year of high school concurrent with application to college. Students will be selected to participate in the program from a review of portfolio information provided to those who will implement the selection process at the individual consortiums. The portfolio would include a student statement, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and SAT or ACT test scores. Although the criteria listed below are fairly specific, it will be important for all those involved in the selection process to exercise flexibility and creativity in reviewing student credentials. Students may be lacking in one part of their portfolio but more than accommodate for that in another area. Also, some students who show striking potential may not yet have that potential reflected in transcripts or test scores. The program is necessarily selective and cannot afford to admit students who do not stand a good chance of succeeding. However, the decisions about what are the predictors of success for any one student will have to be based on individual judgment. Student Statement and Letters of Recommendation Students should be required to compose a letter that describes why they wish to participate in the National Scholars Program and outlines their academic and career goals, particularly indicating their serious interest in pursuing graduate study in science or engineering. The student would then give the statement to a science or mathematics teacher who would use it to prepare a letter of recommendation that addresses four specific items: probable creativity and interest in a science and mathematics career; persistence in meeting challenges and goals; assessment of academic potential; and level of performance relative to potential. If the student had participated in a precollege science education program, such as SHARP or MESA or another research experience, a letter of recommendation would be required from a faculty member, teacher, program director, or counselor that addresses the items specified in the teacher's recommendation. In addition, an assessment of the student's performance, interest in the program, and/or research aptitude might be included.
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN AISES compiles a portfolio of information to be used in the evaluation of applicants. It includes (1) an application form; (2) personal statement that describes why the applicant believes he or she deserves the scholarship, why he or she chose a particular field of study, an explanation of any "low spots" on the transcript, future plans, what he or she wishes to do with the degree, and how he or she plans to use his or her education to assist their home community; (3) two letters of recommendation; and (4) transcripts of academic records. Process: The application package is scored on the academic record (especially in the field of study), personal strengths, letters of recommendation, and financial need. Each application is read three times. The scores are averaged. Scholarships are awarded to the top scorers based on overall rank. Course Preparation and Grades A high school transcript and information on the kinds of courses taken, including advanced placement and honors courses, would be required. All students should have completed four years of college preparatory mathematics in high school through precalculus, three years of science, and four years of English, earning a 3.2 GPA or higher in those courses. In addition, it is required that students be enrolled in precalculus or calculus during their senior year of high school. For those students who attend high schools that do not offer appropriate mathematics course preparation, the K-12 component of the consortium could offer precalculus through a Saturday academy or arrange for them to take calculus at a community college. All National Scholars should be fully prepared to enter calculus upon entry into college. Lack of preparation for calculus is problematic because students who do not take calculus in their freshman year will be at a serious disadvantage in college chemistry courses. Since it is difficult to evaluate the rigor and content of individual high school courses, some independent assessment of a student's readiness for calculus will probably be needed. There are a number of possibilities. A preferred alternative is for the college or university to test prospective scholars when finalists are interviewed. Another option is to have the students take one of the SAT advanced mathematics tests. A student's competence in mathematics may also be evaluated from information provided by a mathematics teacher, or, if a student is participating in a precollege science program, from an assessment made by that program. Test Scores Applicants must submit SAT or ACT scores. We suggest a minimum 1100 SAT score (old scale) or equivalent ACT score, the rationale being that lower test scores may indicate preparation that has been found to be associated with lower persistence rates (Astin 1993; Villarejo and Tafoya 1995). We note that some programs such as the Meyerhoff and Project Space participants typically have SAT math scores no lower than 600. It is not proposed that these quantitative measures be implemented absolutely or without flexibility. Programs should be permitted discretion in individual cases in order to identify students they believe have strong potential to pursue careers in science and engineering. We also recommend that scores on advanced placement tests be included in the student's portfolio. As individual consortiums gain
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN experience in working with students in the program and in refining strategies that enhance success, they may choose to modify these requirements. Interview Interviews are a useful tool in the admissions process. Bringing students to the campus is a means of "selling the program" to students as well as an opportunity for faculty and prospective students to discuss what will be expected of students admitted to the program and, thus, to determine if the student and the program will be a good match. SHARP PLUS, for example, found it necessary to interview finalists to ensure that applicants had strong communications skills. The Meyerhoff Program brings finalists to the campus for a Meyerhoff Selection Weekend to acquaint students with the program and to assist program officials in making the final selection of those who will be offered Meyerhoff Scholarships. It is also during this weekend visitation that students are given mathematics placement tests. The PRISM D program invites its top prospective candidates to the campus at Clark Atlanta University for a weekend to give students a thorough understanding of the program and to interview finalists. In the event that it is not possible to arrange a campus visit for prospective students, interviews should be set up with faculty, staff, or perhaps alumni. Criteria for Program Entry Subsequent to Freshman Year The program should make provision for "late bloomers," for students who wish to enter from other higher education institutions or programs, and for those who simply did not know about the scholars program as high school seniors. Talented students who were otherwise well qualified but lacked a particular course or were not fully prepared for calculus should be considered for admission if they rectify any deficiencies. Students admitted after the freshman year should have qualifications similar to scholars who are already enrolled in the program. Furthermore, students should be permitted to take a leave of absence, not to exceed one year, from the program and be allowed to return, conditional upon the availability of space and funding. A small number of college sophomores are admitted into the Meyerhoff Program as Meyerhoff Affiliates. Students must have earned a 3.7 GPA as freshmen and also qualify for the program in all other respects. Affiliates may participate in all program activities and receive all program benefits, with the exception of a scholarship. If they perform satisfactorily as sophomores, they may be named as Meyerhoff Scholars as college juniors and receive a scholarship award. Criteria for Continuation in the Program Students must maintain a 3.2 GPA in science and mathematics course work and otherwise maintain satisfactory academic progress. Because the National Scholars Program is an honors program, students must be expected to achieve at a high level. Furthermore, students should be required to sign a yearly, renewable contract in which they declare their intent and commitment to pursue advanced (doctoral) study in science and engineering.
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN SELECTION OF GRADUATE STUDENTS A prominent feature of the National Scholars Program is the linkage among high school programs and colleges, graduate schools, and departments, with both formal and person-to-person relationships existing among the different educational levels. We expect that a well-prepared National Scholar will have a strong likelihood of attending his or her graduate school of choice because the student would have benefited from access to sound counseling and advice about graduate study programs. Established relationships between the undergraduate department and the graduate department(s) will maximize the likelihood of a suitable match between a student and graduate program. Effective mentoring and career advisement should serve to assist the student in determining appropriate educational goals and in identifying the most suitable graduate programs, while personal interactions between undergraduate and graduate faculty should strengthen the weight of faculty recommendations in the graduate admissions process. Because practical experience may be an important criterion for acceptance into graduate school in some disciplines, such as engineering, National Scholars should be permitted under special circumstances to take up to two years before entering their doctoral programs to engage in career-related work or study. Students will be required to apply to graduate school through the normal admissions process and, if accepted, will be eligible to continue as a National Scholar if they state their intention to seek a doctoral degree. That the student is a National Scholar, however, will not guarantee admission. Admissions decisions would remain with the graduate department. However, for the reasons stated above and our belief that being a National Scholar signifies academic excellence, acceptance into a graduate program would be the normal expectation. Further, National Scholars will have a guarantee of two years' support from the consortium program and should therefore be more attractive applicants to a graduate department than those who apply without support. Graduate students will normally be expected to enroll full time and to complete their degrees within five to six years. Students will be permitted to take a leave of absence, not to exceed one year, from the program and be allowed to return, conditional upon the availability of space and funding. SELECTION OF CONSORTIA The National Scholars Coordinating Council, in consultation with NASA (and other pertinent program sponsors), should issue a Request for Proposal. Potential consortium applicants would submit an application for funding that described program goals, existing and proposed partnerships, educational and administrative elements, and a budget. Applications could originate from either the graduate or undergraduate institution, or institutions could submit a joint application, so long as there is real and demonstrable involvement on the part of both institutions in the program. Recipients of National Scholars consortium funding would then be selected through a competitive process. Program Goals. The proposal should state the numerical goals, including enrollment and graduation milestones. Similarly, National Scholars should represent an expansion of the numbers of minority
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN students enrolled in science and engineering at the educational institutions. Existing and Proposed Partnerships. The proposal should describe the organization of the consortium which must include (1) genuine and explicit linkages among undergraduate institution(s) and graduate department(s) and/or institution(s), and (2) a relationship with one or more precollege science education programs or school systems. The application should also describe some, but not necessarily all, of the following: the participation of one or more professional societies; the involvement of business and industry; the support and cooperation of state agencies and/or planning programs; and collaboration with other agencies or organizations with similar activities. A consortium should be permitted flexibility in specifying an organizational configuration that it believes will be most effective and suitable for its individual situation. Educational Elements. A proposal must describe how it would implement the "non-negotiable" educational elements— precollege summer bridge programs, research participation, mentoring, academic advisement, structured teaching, and enrichment activities. Administrative Elements. The applicant should describe its data collection and evaluation plans. Budget. The applicant should submit a budget, accompanied with appropriate narrative. Selection Criteria The overriding criterion for evaluating consortium applicants is the likelihood of success in advancing the participation of minorities in science and engineering at the doctoral level. The proposed consortium should state its objectives and provide evidence that indicates effective implementation of the proposed educational elements; the contributions of the proposed partners in the consortium; institutional commitment; a record of accomplishment in educating minority students and/or evidence of proposed commitment that would suggest a strong likelihood of future success; and a high quality academic program. DISCUSSION ISSUES Implementation of Educational Elements In Chapter 4 we described what we consider to be "non-negotiable" elements of a National Scholars Program and suggested how they might be implemented. Having done so, we want to emphasize that each consortium should be permitted to design and implement the kind of program that it believes is best suited to its needs, goals, and capabilities. The program design should reflect "best practices" and knowledge of pertinent educational issues. Contributions of Consortium Partners In contemplating the possible benefits of a partnership with another institution, organization, or other entity, the prevailing question should be, "What is the value added?" In other words, what concrete outcomes would emerge from a partnership with another institution, department, organization, or other entity? The process of forming such a partnership should involve establishing a common ground on which partnerships identify areas of mutual interest in which they can operate or contribute more effectively through collaboration.
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN A consortium should describe the tangible interactions among partners rather than formal agreements. We are singularly unconvinced as to the value of collecting letters of support from various individuals and organizations that testify to interest in and willingness to cooperate with a proposed endeavor. Such testimonials generally offer little more than symbolic support. An applicant should demonstrate the strength of interactions among faculty, students, teachers, and/or others. Examples include (1) faculty meeting and talking with high school teachers about curriculum issues, (2) minority professionals agreeing to spend time with minority youth in a mentoring role, (3) students being offered internships in local industries, (4) university faculty giving seminars to community college students who will then participate in university research labs during the summer, and (5) MARC and a National Scholars Program jointly arranging a Visiting Scholars seminar series. By "value added" we mean that a partnership—proposed or existing—must demonstrate what additional objectives will be accomplished through the National Scholars consortium, apart from and in addition to their current activities and outcomes. For example, if a regional association of colleges applies for National Scholars funding, it must provide persuasive evidence that the National Scholars program would permit implementation of consortium activities over and above its current level of effort as well as achieve the stated goals of the program. The intent is not simply to replace existing funding with National Scholars awards in order to allow an organization or institution to maintain or increase its current level of effort. Institutional Commitment Institutional commitment is a broad term that requires definition in the context of a National Scholars Program. It should involve leadership and commitment from the principal administrative officers of the higher education institutions; department and institutional financial commitments; faculty involvement in the design, development, and implementation of the program; the existence of a critical mass of students and activities within or among academic departments; and integration of the program elements into the mainstream academic culture. Leadership. The academic and administrative leaders of the colleges and universities must demonstrate a strong commitment to the goals of the National Scholars Program and be willing to provide certain staff and resources to the program. The program should not be the creation and responsibility of a few dedicated individuals. Strong institutional commitment is essential and should be more than time and money. It can be expressed in small but significant ways. For example, the president of a college might host a welcome dinner for scholars and faculty mentors. Department and Institutional Financial Commitments. Department and institutional financial commitments are necessary. While the National Scholars Program will provide two years of graduate fellowship support, the graduate departments and institution must agree to provide full financial support for the remainder of each scholar's tenure in the department. We would expect that most students will be supported as research assistants from extramural grant funds, although students may also be supported as teaching assistants or by institutional or departmental fellowships. A National Scholars consortium award will
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN provide some salary funds to permit faculty release time and staff support, but the institution should also provide release time for faculty and staff. Institutions would be required to demonstrate that consortium funding would not supplant existing funds allocated to provide financial support or activities that benefit minority students. Faculty Involvement. Faculty leadership and involvement in the design and implementation of the National Scholars Program are paramount. This would include their participation in the recruitment, selection, teaching, mentoring, advising, and research activities of students. Faculty should also initiate and be responsible for the educational linkages with consortium partners, with the understanding that leadership and major program responsibilities not be assigned to non-faculty staff. Critical Mass. The concept of a "critical mass" is crucial for minority students. All too often minority students are one of a few or perhaps the only minority individual in a science or engineering department. The adverse consequences of social and academic isolation of minority students are well-established. By contrast one of the attractions of minority institutions is the existence of a minority peer group as well as a supportive institutional environment. We are reluctant to specify an exact number for what should constitute a critical mass of minority students in a department or in an institution because institutions vary. A small liberal arts college may enroll few minorities because of its geographical location or historical reputation, but such a school may, through cooperative relationships and certain kinds of activities, be able to provide a critical core of support for the student. The institutional applicant must describe a critical mass of minority students who are also academic peers or other supportive individuals. For example, there may be only one or two National Scholars in a graduate physics department, but the institution may enroll minority students in other science departments, and the institution could arrange opportunities for these students to interact in academic settings such as a seminar series, weekly discussion groups, and social activities. A cluster of small colleges might also facilitate interactions among minority students at these colleges on a regular basis. In short, the intent is for the institution to demonstrate that a critical mass of students or a peer support group exists. Program Integration. Over the long run, the National Scholars Program's very success should lead to its demise because its principles and activities will have become a part of the institutional culture. An application, therefore, should describe how the proposed program activities will relate to the educational experiences and opportunities offered to other high achieving students in the academic program. The consortium should permit and encourage the participation of non-minority students in the various program activities such as a seminar series, field trips, and study groups. Over time, the salaries of faculty and staff as well as the costs of essential activities should be assumed by the institution or department. Record of Accomplishment Some institutions have compiled remarkable records of accomplishment in graduating minority students in science and engineering, and there are sound reasons for recommending that National Scholar consortiums be developed at these institutions. However, there are equally important reasons to expand the range of institutions that offer demanding educational programs and are also
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN effective in nurturing minority students. For example, there are colleges that offer superb undergraduate teaching and strong curricula but have attracted few minority students. Distinguished research universities provide challenging undergraduate and graduate programs for exceptionally able students, but relatively few minorities have benefited from these experiences. In weighing past and present "track records" of colleges and universities in developing minority scholars, we look to a balance. Clearly, Historically Black Colleges and Universities and a doctoral institution might productively collaborate in a National Scholars consortium. However, the more difficult construct arises in the situation of a college or university that has had only modest success in graduating minority students but has specific capabilities and is willing to make the appropriate commitments to establish a consortium. In such a case, concrete examples of other factors, such as the number of minority tenured and tenure-track faculty, financial commitments, and relationships with other organizations and institutions with ambitious diversity goals, should be provided and examined. An institution should not be disqualified from seeking to implement a National Scholars consortium because of the lack of previous accomplishments. Indeed, such committed institutions should be encouraged as a means of expanding the access of minority youth to high quality educational programs and institutions. At the same time, institutions with a history of serving minority students must demonstrate how a consortium would expand and improve contributions to the development of minority doctoral scientists and engineers. Quality of the Academic Program In Chapter 4 we described what we consider to be the characteristics of a high quality undergraduate program in science and engineering. Such a program should be a precondition for participation in a National Scholars consortium. It is not the purpose of the National Scholars Program to implement fundamental reform in the academic programs of institutions, but the program can and should serve to spur positive changes through the integration of program strategies into the institutional culture. These changes might include reforming various gatekeeper courses or providing mentor support for all students. Terms for Continuation of Funding We believe that a National Scholars Program should be envisaged, at a minimum, as a 15-year commitment. The initial years will be a learning experience, during which time the consortium will refine its strategies and objectives. Furthermore, it will take a minimum of nine years for a student who is admitted as a college freshman scholar to complete his or her undergraduate and doctoral study. The program should provide stability in consortium funding. A situation to be avoided is one in which a consortium has received funding for several years, after which a retrospective evaluation is undertaken. A consortium must demonstrate the effectiveness of its operation by specifying milestones (persistence of students through the pipeline) and fulfillment of its organizational commitments to the program in order to receive continued funding. A consortium should not undergo intensive scrutiny only at certain specified intervals that would decide the continuation or
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN immediate termination of funding. Rather, milestones or conditions should be built into the contract at its inception. A consortium should be required to meet these milestones or satisfactorily explain why it did not. In other words, a consortium should be able to monitor its own performance and gauge its prospects for continued funding. Also, ongoing monitoring can provide an early warning about needed changes in the operation of a program. Technical assistance provided by the National Scholars Coordinating Council can assist in this process. If, however, this oversight finds that a consortium is not performing as expected, then provision should be made for prompt feed-back and/or termination of funding. In the event that funding for a consortium is terminated, students enrolled in those institutions would be given the opportunity to transfer to another NSP consortium school. If that were not feasible, funding would be provided for those students to complete their studies where they were.
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