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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

7
The Journey Beyond the Crossroads

A strong and robust science and engineering workforce drives the nation’s ability to thrive in a competitive, knowledge-driven global economy. As demonstrated in previous chapters, the nation needs to pursue aggressive strategies to ensure greater participation of underrepresented minorities in that STEM workforce and to equip them with the technical competencies for emerging needs.

We therefore suggest a need to realign national policies and practices and to integrate these policies and practices vertically and horizontally. The logic to accomplish this feat includes principles to guide the development of transformative programs and activities, description of institutional roles as enablers in the production of minorities in STEM, and characteristics of programs that are designed for optimal impact.

PRINCIPLES

  1. The problem is urgent and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. To be proactive in shaping our future requires that we make broadening participation a national priority. The demographics alone signal immediacy. Acting now to affect the pathways of today’s elementary school students will change the educational outcomes of high school graduates in 2020. Acting now to improve the educational pathways of today’s high school students will impact the doctoral class of 2020. Given the long time horizon for demonstrable results of efforts to improve the participation and success of underrepresented minorities in STEM, we cannot delay if

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

we want to get ahead of the workforce challenges and opportunities that are coming in the next decade.

  1. A successful national effort to address underrepresented minority participation and success in STEM will be sustained. We worry that after an initial effort to address underrepresented minority participation in STEM, national attention may turn to some other crisis of the day and that initial momentum as well as incremental gains may be lost. In its landmark 2003 case, Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court wrote: “The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” The year 2028 is still almost two decades away; until that day when we will no longer need to focus on the participation of underrepresented minorities to ensure strength and equity in our science and engineering workforce, a deliberate national effort is needed to galvanize stakeholders and resources toward this end.

  2. The potential for losing students along the pathway from preschool to graduate school necessitates a comprehensive national approach focusing on all segments of the pathway, all stakeholders, and the potential of all programs, targeted or nontargeted. Understanding that race and ethnicity—and all that group identity may mean for social, economic, and educational opportunity—comprise a key dimension of STEM educational attainment provides an important point of leverage for considering STEM education policy. Indeed, focusing on underrepresented minorities as a point of leverage in STEM education policy allows us to revisit existing education programs from a new perspective. As shown in Table 7-1, there are four existing approaches to the issue. In the first quadrant are policies that seek to affect education across fields for all groups. In quadrant two are policies and programs that seek to improve the educational opportunities across fields, but in particular for underrepresented minorities. In the third quadrant are policies and programs designed to improve science and engineering education for all groups. In the fourth quadrant are policies and programs specifically targeting underrepresented minorities in science and engineering.

Federal and state education policies and programs that affect underrepresented minorities, including those in STEM, can be identified in each of these quadrants. For example:

  1. All Fields/All Groups: Universal Preschool, No Child Left Behind Act, Pell Grants

  2. All Fields/Underrepresented Minorities: Affirmative Action, Top 10 Percent Admissions Rule (e.g., California and Texas policies for UC and UT undergraduate admissions)

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

TABLE 7-1 Approaches to Increasing Underrepresented Minority Participation and Success in Science and Engineering

 

 

Demographic Target

 

 

All Groups

Underrepresented Minorities

Fields

All fields

1

2

Science and Engineering

3

4

  1. STEM Fields/All Groups: SMART Grants, NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship Program, NIH National Research Service Award Graduate Fellowships

  2. STEM Fields/Underrepresented Minorities: NSF Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), HBCU-UP, TCU-UP, NIH Minority Access to Research Careers

The nation can utilize all of these programs and their methodologies more synergistically to accomplish the goal of broadening participation, using targeted programs as necessary but also embedding the goal of increased participation in nontargeted programs. In particular, all of the nation’s higher education institutions can make underrepresented minority participation and success in STEM a priority and take actions necessary to become more inclusive.

  1. Students who have not had the same degree of exposure to STEM and to postsecondary education require more intensive efforts at each level to provide adequate preparation, financial support, mentoring, social integration, and professional development. Effective policies, strategies, and interventions are needed to target each segment of the STEM education pipeline trajectory, from preschool to graduate school. They must aim to reverse the downward spiral in academic achievement for the nation in general, but particularly for underrepresented minorities. In addition, they must target the perpetual problems of elementary school readiness, achievement gaps, college preparedness, cultural diversity, and attrition and degree completion in STEM. Ingredients for success in STEM education are discussed in detail in Appendix F.

    Although there is still much to understand about how students learn and how to improve retention and completion in educational programs,

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

we already do know a lot about what works. In fact, many interventions that assist students from one background are the same as those that would assist students from any background: It helps to be prepared, informed, and motivated; to have financial, social, and academic support; and to have institutional resources necessary for success once enrolled in the field. Yet, there are issues that are specific to STEM, for example, how to teach science and mathematics so that students learn and sustain interest. And there are issues that are specific to underrepresented minorities who have not had the same degree of exposure to STEM and to the world of postsecondary education, or who, for whatever reason, may feel, or be made to feel, like an “outsider” and require more intense efforts at each level.

Effective interventions for minorities in STEM are well documented in reports such as that of Chubin, DePass, and Blockus (2009), presented at an AAAS conference.1 This report is a compendium of research reports and articles from an interdisciplinary community of scholars and was designed not only to inform practice and research but also to inform practice with research. The report demonstrates the importance and opportunity for stakeholders across all segments to contribute to this national effort.

  1. A coordinated approach to existing federal STEM programs can leverage resources while supporting programs tailored to the specific missions, histories, cultures, student populations, and geographic locations of institutions with demonstrated success in the preparation and advancement of underrepresented minorities in STEM. The most recent inventory of federal STEM education programs, developed by the Academic Competitiveness Council (ACC), catalogued 105 such programs across 12 agencies with an aggregate funding of $3.12 billion for fiscal year 2006. By educational level, this inventory includes:

• Kindergarten through grade 12:

24 programs

• Undergraduate and graduate education:

70 programs

• Informal education:

11 programs

Slightly more than half of the inventory, 57 programs, either target underrepresented groups (underrepresented minorities, women, or persons with disabilities) or include increasing the participation of these groups in STEM as an embedded goal.2

1

D. Chubin, A. L. DePass, and L. Blockus. 2009. Understanding Interventions That Broaden Participation in Research Careers. Volume III. Summary of a Conference, Bethesda, MD, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

2

The ACC inventory appears to have missed several programs at the National Institutes of Health, so the overall list is likely longer, as is the list of programs with a focus on underrepresented groups.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

The ACC (2007) found that “many of these programs share similar goals” and that “while duplication is not inherently bad … coordination among agencies could be improved.”3 The Council identified two reasons why coordination would be helpful, and our own experiences with STEM education also suggest a third:

  • Grants often support projects that appear uninformed by similar earlier experiences.

  • Agencies with similar STEM programs and goals sometimes do not share information about the work they fund.

  • Agencies with similar missions sometimes fund programs on the same campus, even targeting the same population, without any coordination of activities.

Institutions and students would be better served by operational coordination of STEM education programs among agencies, including joint funding competitions. This coordination could provide for effective articulation of programs that target different educational stages and reduce redundancy, increase effectiveness, and allow for leveraging of funds as appropriate.

Coordination of STEM education programs, including those focused on increasing the participation and success of underrepresented minorities, can be accomplished in several ways:

  1. A Committee on STEM Education within the NSTC can help agencies share information on effective practices and also develop partnerships that leverage resources and increase impact.

  2. Bilateral partnerships between agencies can elevate the stature and catalyze national momentum of STEM initiatives. A Memorandum of Understanding between the NSF and NASA that provides for cooperation and coordination of STEM education programs is an example of this type of practice.

  3. Within an agency, partnerships can also advance STEM education goals. For example, the NSF’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) program is administered as a cross-directorate program out of the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate. Similarly, the Geosciences Directorate’s GEO Education and Diversity Strategic Plan (2010-2015) is aligned with investments being made within EHR and proposes to partner with agencies such as NASA, NOAA, DOE, and USGS. Partnerships across other directorates can be developed to leverage the agency’s resources to optimize the broadening participation strategy.

3

Academic Competitiveness Council, Report of the Academic Competitiveness Council, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, May 2007. http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/competitiveness/acc-mathscience/report.pdf (accessed February 19, 2010), p. 3.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×
  1. Finally, one or more agencies can provide funding to an institution or group of institutions to better integrate activities focused on engaging minorities in STEM. Although not specifically directed to broadening participation, the NSF’s Innovation through Institutional Integration (I3) initiative illustrates this strategy.

While greater coordination and strategic partnerships can make both national and local efforts more effective and powerful, these efforts must be well conceived, leveraging programmatic strengths while retaining the intrinsic power found in the focus of individual programs designed to meet specific needs. Thus, it would be a mistake to consolidate programs, tailored to the specific missions, histories, cultures, student populations, and geographic locations of HBCUs, TCUs, and HSIs that have demonstrated success in the preparation and advancement of groups underrepresented in STEM.

  1. Evaluation of STEM programs and increased research on the many dimensions of underrepresented minorities’ experience in STEM help ensure that programs are well informed, well designed, and successful. Federal agencies, higher education institutions, professional associations, and philanthropy can drive efforts to increase the participation of underrepresented minority students in STEM through program evaluation, identification of best practice, information dissemination activities, and support for inquiry that focuses on key areas of research.

Program evaluation (summative and formative) is a useful tool for both policy making and program management. Evaluation can:

  • Provide real-time feedback on program design, processes, and implementation;

  • Assess whether a program and particular program features are successful or not; and

  • Provide information that is useful to a program and that can be shared with others with similar programs or those who desire to develop one.

The ACC has argued that there is significant room for increased and more rigorous evaluation of federal STEM education programs in general. Building Engineering and Science Talent (BEST) (2005) found that there also has been little such evaluation of programs to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM.4

4

Building Engineering and Science Talent, A Bridge for All: Higher Education Design Principles for Broadening Participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. San Diego, CA: February 2004. http://www.bestworkforce.org/PDFdocs/BEST_BridgeforAll_HighEdFINAL.pdf (accessed December 22, 2009).

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

Indeed, the number of rigorous evaluations of programs designed to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM is small, even including three large efforts undertaken since the publication of A Bridge for All, an Assessment of NIH Minority Research and Training Programs by the National Research Council, and evaluations by the Urban Institute of the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) and Historically Black College and University Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) programs at the NSF.5 Evaluations of similar efforts by private foundations are also warranted to explore opportunities to find partners in funding the most promising programs.

A corollary to the importance of program evaluation is the dissemination of information about practice that is derived from these evaluations and from other research. The development and maintenance of a database or clearinghouse of information from evaluation and research could enhance the accessibility of evidence-based approaches to formulating programs and strategies and could by extension significantly enhance effectiveness.

Further research into the many dimensions of the experience of underrepresented minorities in STEM also will inform policy and practice in positive ways. The report already has drawn on a growing body of research on the social, cultural, psychological, economic, and educational dimensions of increasing participation and success. We have presented selected researchers and scholars in Appendix H and outlined priority areas of inquiry for future research. These include mentoring, social support networks, institutional and departmental culture, attrition, and the characteristics of minority-serving institutions that enable them to nurture and sustain underrepresented minorities in STEM. Suggestions also include the need for additional research on the interrelationship of gender and race/ethnicity in STEM, developing a critical mass of underrepresented minority students in a program, and the impact of intervention programs. Further research into the contributions of eminent underrepresented minority scientists and engineers and how their examples and experiences affected other minorities in STEM would provide additional useful insights.

INSTITUTIONAL ROLES

The committee was charged with discussing the role of minority-serving institutions (MSIs) in increasing underrepresented minority participation and success in STEM. To do that, we must discuss MSIs in the context of

5

National Research Council. 2005. Assessment of NIH Minority Research Programs; Phase 3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Beatriz Chu Clewell et al. 2006. Revitalizing the Nation’s Talent Pool in STEM . Urban Institute: Washington, DC. Beatriz Chu Clewell et al. 2010. Capacity Building to Diversify STEM: Realizing Potential Among HBCUs, Urban Institute: Washington, DC.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

all higher education institutions. We would like to share four observations at the outset regarding their respective roles.

  1. An analysis of the baccalaureate origins of underrepresented minority PhDs in STEM (included in Appendix G) finds that institutions successful in graduating such students at the baccalaureate level are diverse. For African American and Hispanic S&E PhDs, top baccalaureate origin institutions included both minority-serving and predominantly white institutions. For example, as shown in Table 7-2, about one-third of the baccalaureate institutions for African American PhDs in STEM fields were HBCUs, and about two-thirds were non-HBCUs.

    An NSF analysis that normalized baccalaureate origin rankings by percentage of bachelor’s degrees awarded to African Americans also showed that among PWIs, both research universities and liberal arts colleges contributed to the undergraduate education of future doctorates, as was the case for HBCUs.

    The analysis also shows that those institutions—whether minority-serving or predominantly white—that are successful are doing something special. What they are doing is not a mystery, as will be discussed below, and can be replicated at other institutions. Research on underrepresented minority students in the STEM pathway indicates that although these students enroll at rates similar to those of their Asian American and white counterparts, they drop out at a much higher rate. The major contribution of the top baccalaureate producers of PhDs, then, lies in their ability to retain underrepresented minority undergraduates in the natural sciences and engineering. The analysis in Appendix G shows that they appear to do it through a focus on STEM education in one or more particular fields that represent the core strengths of the institution.

  2. The challenge of increasing underrepresented minority participation and success in STEM is so substantial that it requires every institution to step up to the plate regardless of its size or type. This is a responsibility for the nation, and every institution must be held accountable.

  3. Numbers are not enough. It is equally important, if not more so, that we ultimately focus on quality. Our aim must be to produce underrepresented minority students from all types of institutions at bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels who are strongly qualified for the STEM workforce, advanced training, and research. The support of an advocate mentor while pursuing opportunities in the job market—particularly the academic job market—can be invaluable for underrepresented minorities.

The diversity of American higher education institutions is a competitive advantage in the global knowledge economy. This institutional diversity could be, but is not yet, effective in addressing the varied needs of under-

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

TABLE 7-2 Number of U.S. Baccalaureate Institutions of African American PhDs in Science and Engineering, by Broad Field and Institutional Type, 2006

Institutional Type

Social & Behavioral Sciences

Natural Sciences & Engineering

Science and Engineering

HBCUs

93

162

255

Non-HBCUs

257

267

524

Total

350

429

779

% HBCU

26.6%

37.8%

32.7%

Note: Totals and percentages do not include unknown institutions.

Source: NSF/SRS, WebCASPAR.

represented minority students. Currently, only a small number of institutions are playing their potential roles. Everyone else is failing underrepresented minorities, their institutions, and America.

Predominantly White Institutions

We need to increase retention of African American, Hispanic, and Native American students in NS&E fields on a large scale to influence their numbers in science and engineering, particularly at the doctoral level. The best way to do so is to replicate programs, resources, and focused efforts at the successful PWIs at a very large number of similar institutions, especially large state flagships (which could produce larger numbers and be more economical for students to attend). They also can learn from the MSIs that have proven success in producing large numbers of minority students in STEM. As outstanding as individual institutional strategies are at institutions such as UMBC, Georgia Tech, Rice, and MIT, they individually contribute only marginal change to a huge problem. What is needed is for every four-year institution to develop and implement its own version of programs with demonstrated and sustained success such as the UMBC Meyerhoff, Georgia Tech Focus, or Rice University Computational and Applied Mathematics (CAAM) programs. (See Box 7-1 for a detailed description of the CAAM program.) Each of these had a single or initial champion that helped to drive the numbers that these institutions have been able to produce.

Institutions can use the program guidance described later in this chapter to develop effective interventions, perhaps focusing on a specific field of science or engineering that is a special strength of the institution. Majority schools can enable minority students by providing them with the quality educational experiences that they provide to majority and international students. They can act affirmatively, removing systemic barriers to the partici-

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

BOX 7-1

Rice University Computational and Applied Mathematics Program

The American Mathematical Society (AMS) presented Rice University’s Computational and Applied Mathematics (CAAM) Department its 2010 “Mathematics Programs That Make a Difference” award in acknowledgment of “the department’s unwavering commitment to students through individual guidance and support” that “has created an exceptionally welcoming community in which students thrive.” For 25 years, the Rice University Computational and Applied Mathematics Department has worked to increase participation of underrepresented minority (URM) students at the PhD level. Over those 25 years, 34 URM PhDs (6 African American, 15 domestic Hispanics, and 13 Latin American Hispanics) have been produced. An additional 33 women have received CAAM PhDs over this period.

CAAM URM graduates have distinguished themselves across the country in government labs, industry, and university faculties, many in positions of leadership. Also, the CAAM department program has served as a model for first a university-wide, then a Houston-wide program across all science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, and for an engineering-wide program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M).


Program Vision: Admitting a full spectrum of underrepresented minority students, some of which would be rejected using traditional admissions criteria, and then creating a community that provides academic, social, and personal support are the cornerstones of the CAAM program. The goal was to find the “diamonds in the rough” so as to increase participation nationally, not just to compete with other good schools for the few stellar students that would be accepted at any elite school in the country.


Admissions: CAAM admissions decisions are made by the CAAM Graduate Admissions Committee, with input from a central committee that is part of Rice’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program, that advises on minority graduate admissions across all science and engineering departments. The AGEP committee controls approximately 16 graduate minority fellowships and tuition waivers funded by Rice each year, and the CAAM department, as well as all other STEM departments, sends applications to this committee for consideration. Since department graduate admissions committees tend to be rotating, and new committee members may not understand or share the goal of diversity, this standing committee provides continuity of purpose and understanding on diversity matters.


The committee takes a holistic approach to evaluating students for admissions; standardized test scores, undergraduate grades, quality of undergraduate institution, and letters of recommendation are all reviewed as a whole. For GRE

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

scores, the committee chooses a threshold score at which students should be successful. Students with scores significantly above the threshold are deemed to be equivalent, relative to the test score; the score is dismissed, and admission decisions are guided by the other criteria. Students with scores near the threshold value are considered with extra care, and students with scores significantly below the threshold, have to have very strong credentials otherwise to be accepted.

Admissions is still an art rather than a science, but experience and better understanding of how to evaluate is gained with each new class. Having the input of a knowledgeable and caring minority committee lessens the mistakes of excluding people with the ability to succeed or admitting people who do not. Having the strength of funding behind them gives the AGEP committee some clout with the department about decisions. Current underrepresented minority students also play a major role in the recruitment of new students. They recruit at national meetings in coordination with departmental recruiters. Moreover, they play a role in hosting and entertaining visiting underrepresented minority students who have been accepted by the various departments.


Retention: No quality captures the essence of the CAAM program like that of community. Incoming URM students are brought to Rice during the summer prior to their first year. That summer is spent working on a research project, but the primary purpose is to help students develop a support system before they start classes. Students who are more senior mentor the incoming students in this acclimatization. Bringing together students and faculty from all STEM departments creates a critical mass for community, and concerns among the graduate students across STEM disciplines are often common enough to share as support for one another. These weekly sessions include guest speakers, student research presentations, social interactions, and professional development activities.


Faculty Involvement: Strong faculty involvement is a key component of the Rice CAAM model. The CAAM program creates close student-faculty relationships early in students’ careers with minority and other caring faculty to build trust for any future interventions. What has proven successful at CAAM is that the faculty program leaders keep close watch on students and proactively check on their progress. They then make recommendations such as study groups, tutoring, a reduced course load, and undergraduate courses, even changing research advisors or stepping in to co-advise. Important in all of this is that no stigma accompanies these recommendations. Students frequently emerge from these actions strong and on par with other CAAM students.


—Richard Tapia, Rice University

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

pation of underrepresented minorities in college by developing admissions and financial aid policies that promote diversity in the campus population. They can also provide the same kind of warm, supportive environment for underrepresented minority students that these students find at minority-serving institutions.

Liberal arts colleges can provide STEM programs for students who want to pursue a science-based career or prepare for professional programs or graduate school in science or engineering. Master’s-focused institutions and research institutions can provide professional science master’s programs that offer a graduate-level opportunity for students interested in science who want to work in industry, government, or nonprofits. Master’s-focused institutions can also provide a bridge to doctoral study for minority students by providing them with a solid introduction to graduate school in an environment that prepares them for success later at the doctorate level.

To address the particular needs of underrepresented minority students, majority institutions can adopt more specific guidelines that include:

  • Senior administrators, especially science and engineering deans, actively endorsing and supporting minority-focused programs in order to promote faculty buy-in.

  • Respected faculty members in the STEM fields acting as mentors, advisors, role models, and advocates, along with a policy of insisting that faculty and others hold everyone to the same high standards and expectations that encourage all students to perform at their best level (Tapia, 2009).6

  • Support systems that enable students to fully assimilate into the culture of the institution and mainstream into campus life.

Minority-Serving Institutions

Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) as defined by 20 USC Sec. 1067k7 play a distinctive role for underrepresented minorities in STEM. (See Box 7-2 for definitions of MSIs.) They have a legacy of recruiting, retaining, and graduating a disproportionate number of minorities, especially at the undergraduate level. MSIs enroll approximately 60 percent of all minority undergraduates at two-year and four-year institutions8 and are the baccalaureate origin of a large segment of minority STEM doctorate

6

Richard Tapia, “Minority Students and Research Universities: How to Overcome the ‘Mismatch,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 27, 2009.

7

20 USC Sec. 1067k.

8

National Center for Education Statistics. 2008. Characteristics of Minority-Serving Institutions and Minority Undergraduates Enrolled in These Institutions, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

BOX 7-2

Minority-Serving Institutions

Minority Serving Institutions are themselves diverse, and policies and programs aimed at serving underrepresented groups should leverage these differences.

  • The Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), for example, were established to respond to the needs of the American Indian population in geographically isolated communities based primarily on reservations. “TCUs have an additional mission: They serve as a venue for educational attainment for American Indian students and are committed to the preservation and resuscitation of native cultures and traditions.”a However, they are plagued by low college access and degree completion rates, inadequate financial support, and historical discrimination. They rely on federal intervention because they typically are located on federal trust territories and cannot access state funds or local tax levies.

  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) typically date from the nineteenth century and were established to serve African Americans who were excluded from white institutions. These institutions are predominantly though not entirely in the South, stretching from Pennsylvania to Texas. Their student population is overwhelmingly African American. Yet they, too, are diverse, ranging from very small institutions to research universities like Howard and Florida A&M that operate doctoral and professional programs.

  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) differ definitionally from TCUs and HBCUs in that, in order to meet the federal definition, an institution typically has enrollment of Hispanics at or above 25 percent of the student population. HSIs can, therefore, be both predominantly white and Hispanic-serving at the same time. This, of course, creates a different dynamic. As with HBCUs, HSIs also are diverse, ranging from those with relatively small Hispanic population to those that are overwhelmingly Hispanic (e.g., University of Puerto Rico) and from those that are relatively small to much larger doctoral institutions, such as the University of Texas at El Paso.

  

aThe Path of Many Journeys: The Benefit of Higher Education for Native People and Communities (2007) Institute for Higher Education Policy.

recipients, despite the fact that many are smaller than mainstream institutions and receive significantly fewer federal obligations for R&D and science and engineering. Much of their success is attributed to their mission to educate underrepresented minority students while providing a sensitive climate, role models, and emphases on teaching, peer support, mentoring, and service to their communities.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

In spite of their importance to higher education and to society, many MSIs are struggling financially, often lacking adequate resources to enable them to offer competitive salaries to their faculty and staff, provide scholarships and fellowships to students, and maintain robust research infrastructures. With additional support, they can expand their effectiveness in recruiting, retaining, and graduating an increased number of minorities in STEM, especially at the baccalaureate level. Partnerships among MSIs and between MSIs and PWIs can be effective in building a sustained pipeline of minorities in STEM when these partnerships provide increased access to research opportunities for faculty and students, faculty and student exchanges, and knowledge transfer.9 Increasing the proportion of faculty at MSIs who are themselves underrepresented minorities can provide both greater opportunity and new role models for aspiring underrepresented minorities in STEM.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities

The fact that HBCUs enroll smaller percentages of African American students in S&E majors than do PWIs but graduate a larger percentage speaks to the efficacy of these institutions in retaining these students. HBCUs by their very mission, purpose, and environment are more likely to achieve success because the nurturing, individualized nature of instruction, and the presence of a critical mass of African American students and role models among faculty may offset the lack of resources. A recent evaluation of NSF’s HBCU-UP program has shown that providing resources to strengthen the institutional STEM infrastructure at these institutions has resulted in their producing students who enter STEM graduate programs at a greater rate than do institutions of higher education nationally. (A similar phenomenon exists with women’s colleges, which are more likely to produce women who ultimately attain doctorates in the sciences.) UMBC, Georgia Tech, and MIT may incorporate some of the attributes of HBCUs, but they have adapted their strategies to be successful in a PWI environment. Other PWIs should learn from this success.

The HBCU distribution across Carnegie classifications suggests that a strategy for utilizing this resource for increasing underrepresented minority success in STEM should be sensitive to differences within this group and build on the strength of institutions best positioned to advance students in these areas. A small number of HBCUs are particularly successful in the baccalaureate production of African American STEM doctorates. (See Box 7-3 for a description of Florida A&M’s student support pro-

9

National Research Council. 2009. Partnerships for Emerging Research Institutions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

BOX 7-3

Life-Gets-Better at Florida A&M University

The Presidential Scholars Program at Florida A&M University is a student-centered program of academic scholarships for student enhancement and empowerment. This program offers a range of seven unique scholarships and seeks to identify and award scholarships to students who have excelled at the national achievement level. It also seeks those committed students who have achieved a measure of success and have the potential to pursue a rigorous program of study, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The premier scholarship in the Presidential Scholars Program is the Life-Gets-Better Scholarship, which is offered to students seeking a STEM major. The Life-Gets-Better Scholarship is a unique award at Florida A&M University. It provides a full scholarship and summer internship to a student who has outstanding academic achievements and is jointly sponsored by Florida A&M University and major corporations. The sponsoring corporations provide the students with paid summer internships. Each summer, the student continues employment with the same firm at an increasing rate of pay. The four-year scholarship covers the cost of tuition and fees, room and board, $500 per semester stipend, and a book scholarship each semester.

The Presidential Scholars Program also has scholarships for students who have demonstrated academic potential and have achieved success. Each of the seven scholarships in the Presidential Scholars Program has elements of the Life-Gets-Better Scholarship. The nurturing environment that is imbedded in the Presidential Scholars Program at Florida A&M University emphasizes twenty-first century skills required for knowledge-based STEM careers and readiness for graduate school and for lifelong learning, while assuring the acquisition of professional attributes required for industry.

This approach has resulted in Florida A&M University being ranked #1 for baccalaureate degrees awarded to African Americans in traditional higher education institutions and ranked #1 as the baccalaureate origin institution of African American doctorates in Natural Sciences and Engineering (NS&E), 2002-2006. The Presidential Scholars Program at Florida A&M University offers a Life-Gets-Better approach to educational attainment.

gram.) Indeed, it is in these institutions primarily that we have already invested to build capacity, so going forward it is important to build on these investments in order to improve education and research in these institutions to bolster undergraduate education in particular and graduate education in selected areas. A good example is North Carolina A&T State University, which has been reclassified as a research-intensive institution according to the Carnegie Classification System and designated an Engineering Research Center by the NSF as a result of an open national competitive process.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×
Hispanic-Serving Institutions

Characterizing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) is far more difficult than describing HBCUs, or for that matter Tribal Colleges and Universities, because HSIs include a broad range of both public and private institutions, four-year colleges and universities, and community colleges. They include campuses of the University of Puerto Rico, which serve a Hispanic population in a very specific geographic location in which Hispanics are in the majority. In the continental United States, HSIs were not created to serve a specific population, as was the case for HBCUs, but rather evolved because of their geographic proximity to Hispanic populations. So, with the exception of three HSIs (Boricua College, National Hispanic University, and Hostos Community College), HSIs do not have charters or missions that address goals for educating Hispanics. They are also an “open set” to which new institutions are being added each year as they reach the federally defined 25 percent Hispanic enrollment threshold.

These institutions, therefore, vary greatly with regard to their focus on Hispanic students and how effective they are in carrying out a mission of engagement with and success for Hispanics. If our purpose in identifying the top producers of undergraduates who go on to earn PhDs is to replicate especially successful programs for Hispanics, we should consider HSIs and PWIs that are top producers as similar in that, unlike HBCUs and Tribal Colleges and Universities, HSIs are not in general using very different strategies than top-producing PWIs. Some institutions, however, which have a longer history of deep engagement with Hispanic students, may be more similar to HBCUs than more recent additions to the HSI set and, as argued in a recent report from the University of Southern California, may be more able to provide useful models for both predominantly white institutions and new or emerging HSIs to increase their productivity of STEM degree completion.10

We should not lose track of the fact that more than half of HSIs are two-year colleges and that over half of the Hispanic postsecondary population (including S&E majors) begin at two-year colleges. Similarly, with a few exceptions, almost all tribal colleges are two-year institutions. These facts suggest that one of the strongest recommendations we can make to increase the numbers of Hispanic and Native American scientists and engineers is to improve the transfer rates of science and engineering majors from these institutions to four-year colleges.

10

Alicia C. Dowd, Lindsey E. Malcom, and Estela Mara Bensimon. 2009. Benchmarking the Success of Latina and Latino Students in STEM to Achieve National Graduation Goals. Los Angeles, CA: University of Southern California.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×
Tribal Colleges and Universities

Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), on the other hand, do have a unique mission. Similar to HBCUs, TCUs were established by Tribal governments to serve American Indians, who have been historically underserved by mainstream colleges and universities, and they have been effective in preparing students for higher education and the workforce. For example, enrollment at TCUs increased by 26.8 percent for American Indian men and 17.3 percent for American Indian women between 2000 and 2005. They have been successful also in producing the largest pool of American Indian students who later complete PhDs in science and engineering. In 2005, TCUs awarded 1,662 associate’s degrees, 203 bachelor’s degrees, and 10 master’s degrees, primarily to American Indians and predominantly to women.11 The top producers of American Indian doctorates are in Arizona, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, all of which are in close proximity to the TCUs and reservations.

A National Academy of Engineering letter report from the steering committee for engineering studies at TCUs documents the advantages of these institutions. “TCUs offer culturally responsive education that includes cultural literacy, self-reflective analysis of attitudes and beliefs; caring, trusting, and inclusive classrooms; respect for diversity; and a transformative curriculum that engenders meaning.”12 These are especially important for children raised and educated on reservations with strong ties to tribal communities. “TCUs also offer place-based education—programs that explicitly connect students with indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing and help them discover the relationship of this knowledge to modern science and social studies.”

Community Colleges

Community colleges—where the majority of underrepresented minority students begin postsecondary study—provide educational opportunity for underrepresented minority students who seek to stay in their communities, save on educational expenses, or benefit from smaller class sizes or remedial work during their first two postsecondary years. With regard to STEM, these institutions provide a variety of educational opportunities. They provide technician training or science courses for those, such as nurses, who are preparing for the workforce upon completing a two-year program. They also provide underclass coursework for engineering students who transfer to

11

M. Ryu. 2008. Minorities in Higher Education. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.

12

National Academy of Engineering. 2006. Engineering Studies at Tribal Colleges and Universities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 18.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

four-year programs or science courses for students who transfer to four-year institutions and either major in science or in a pre-professional program, such as nursing, dentistry, or medicine.13 (See Box 7-4 for an example of a program promoting STEM education at Miami Dade College.) Community colleges act as a bridge to four-year institutions and should be the place to institute transition programs; they also reach out in the other direction as well, to work with K-12 through articulation agreements, summer bridge programs, and individual outreach to area high schools, assisting in the transfer from high school to college. To facilitate and increase the successful transfer of underrepresented minorities to four-year institutions, an increased emphasis on, and support for, mentoring, academic and career counseling, peer support, and undergraduate research at two-year institutions is recommended.

LEADERSHIP

Leadership in identifying and articulating minority participation and success as an institutional goal is essential at all levels for all stakeholders: the federal government, state and local governments, employers, philanthropy, professional societies, educational institutions, programs, faculty, and students. For each higher education institution that must now take action, the academic leadership—regents, trustees, presidents, provosts, deans, and department chairs—must articulate underrepresented minority participation as a key commitment both in the institutional mission and in everyday affairs in order to set a tone that raises awareness and effort. With institutional rewards connected to this mission, deeper effort and impact can be further realized. Faculty are important in the production of diversity in the student population—particularly at the PhD level—and faculty buy-in is essential.

Stakeholders must be more aggressive in investing in the development of underrepresented minority teachers, faculty, and administrators who can serve as both role models and leaders. As discussed earlier, while more minorities are receiving doctorates in science and engineering, the percentage of STEM faculty who are underrepresented minorities is very low(see, e.g., Nelson, 2007).14 The Preparing Future Faculty Program is a national model for preparing aspiring graduate students for academic careers.15

13

National Research Council. 2005. Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

14

See also Donna J. Nelson, A National Analysis of Minorities in Science and Engineering Faculties at Research Universities. October 31, 2007. http://chem.ou.edu/~djn/diversity/Faculty_Tables_FY07/FinalReport07.html (accessed February 25, 2009).

15

http://www.preparing-faculty.org.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

BOX 7-4

Windows of Opportunity, Miami Dade College

Windows of Opportunity is a scholarship program that assists academically promising, low-income students in obtaining the associate in arts or associate in science degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) at Miami Dade College (MDC). At least twenty-five freshman and sophomore level students participate in the program each year. Upon completion of the program, students are able to transfer to an upper division school or enter the workforce directly in their chosen field. This collaboration among eight MDC campuses brings together a diverse and experienced group of educators, business partners, and students. Program participants receive scholarships, mentoring by STEM faculty, intense academic and career planning activities, interactions with STEM professionals on and off campus, and internship experiences. The program evaluation encompasses student achievement, retention and graduation rates compared to nonprogram participants, as well as student and faculty surveys each semester, and a final student exit survey. The project is disseminated nationally by presentations of strategies, best practices, and student success rates. The program’s Web portal is also publicly accessible. Upon completion of the program, participants help fill the critical shortage of scientists and engineers in Miami-Dade County. Participants not only make a contribution to South Florida, but also serve as role models to future STEM students.

In addition, a champion at the program level providing leadership dedicated to long-term improvement is typically critical to the success of programs focused on increasing the participation of underrepresented minority students. This person should be a faculty member who has the respect, power, clout, and ear of the administration. It also helps if this person is an underrepresented minority, as this provides credibility with both the majority and minority communities, and this person may then also serve as a role model to underrepresented minority students. This person is needed to organize and energize the program and obtain buy-in from other stakeholders. A person with institutional clout will bring extra resources to the program. Indeed, programs need deeper institutional buy-in for long-term sustainability; otherwise, the loss of a program champion can lead to program decline.

DEVELOPING A PROGRAM

The literature on best practices for increasing minority participation in STEM education provides guidance for the development and execution of the policies and programs that are designed to change the academic culture

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

and sustain programs so as to encourage student retention, persistence, and completion. Below are key elements for developing a program that are necessary to transform goals into reality (BEST, 2004; Chubin and Ward, 2009; Hrabowski, 2004; Hurtado, et al. 1999; Hurtado et al., 2008; Malcom, 2004, Malcom, Chubin, and Jesse, 2004; Martin and Pearson, 2004; NRC, 2005).16


Resources and sustainability: The development of programs to stimulate student interest and success in STEM, both in general and for programs that target minorities, requires substantial and sustained resources. These resources provide institutional infrastructure, salaries of faculty and administrators, seed capital for the development of programs, and student financial support. For long-term sustainability of successful programs, resources need to be continual, certain, steady, and sufficient. Program success is often dependent on external support for program launch, institutional buy-in and support with time, and the development of diverse sources of funding to ensure continuity if any one piece of support is terminated.


Coordination and integration: Coordination and integration of efforts can make the aggregate of individual programs greater than the sum of their parts. This coordination and integration can be accomplished at several levels. First, as discussed earlier, federal agencies and other funding organizations can coordinate their efforts to both avoid unnecessary duplication of program support and to ensure that investments and the programs supported by those investments complement each other in a way that builds capacity and maximizes impact. Second, many programs even on the same campus operate in isolation from other efforts. Making the aggregate of individual programs greater than the sum of their parts can be accomplished by connecting program leaders to a network of such individuals who administer minority programs at the institution and in their discipline through support, information sharing, and strategic coordination.


Focus on the pipeline, career pathways, and transition points: A corollary to coordination and integration is for programs and strategies to focus on career pathways and pipeline transition points. Martin and Pearson (2004) noted that minorities suffer from high rates of attrition at each critical transition point along the pipeline from pre-K-12 all the way to the workforce. The identification and strengthening of transition points along the STEM pipeline and exposing students to career options are as important as viewing programs not as separate efforts but as pieces of larger efforts designed to move stu-

16

Hurtado et al. 1999; BEST 2004; Malcom, Chubin, and Jesse 2004; Hrabowski 2004; Malcom 2004, Martin, and Pearson 2004; NRC 2005, Hurtado et al. 2008; and Chubin and Ward 2009.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

dents from one step to the next, recognizing that the sequence is not linear. One promising approach may be the establishment and funding of centers of excellence that address multiple aspects of the STEM pipeline.


Program design: A successful program may be innovative or replicative and will draw on the lessons of best and worst practices in program development and implementation but be tailored to its particular institutional and disciplinary context. The components of a program will vary depending on its target population (e.g., educational stage, skills, and knowledge of students), goals, and resources. A program may include many approaches, such as outreach and recruitment, improved curricula, advanced courses, engaged mentors, peer support, research experiences, bridging, and student financial support. The program design must ensure congruence between planned goals and actual outcomes with intermittent measures to gauge short-term progress and longitudinal tracking to document impact.


Program execution: Little discussed in the literature but critical to success is program execution. Even if a program is well designed, well resourced, and appropriately targeted, without proper execution it has little chance of full success. Execution is complicated. The program requires excellent management as well, so that program components are coordinated, program administration is effective, and the program can meet or exceed its intended goals.


Program evaluation: Whether a program meets or exceeds its goals is subject to examination. Programs designed to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities benefit themselves and others by engaging in ongoing, constructive evaluation. Formative evaluations that provide feedback to programs on their design, processes, and outcomes can help those programs adjust in real time, making continuous improvements that increase impact. Summative evaluations of programs can likewise provide feedback to those programs but also make judgments about practices that can provide lessons to others.


Knowledge sharing: A corollary to the importance of program evaluation is the dissemination of information about practice that is derived from these evaluations and from other research. Successful programs draw on the lessons learned from both best and worst practice—both successful and unsuccessful programs. The Academic Competitiveness Council recommended a “living inventory” of STEM education programs that provides shared knowledge of effective practices.17 The development and mainte-

17

Irma Arispe. Presentation to the Committee. June 11, 2008.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

nance of a database or clearinghouse of information from evaluation and research could enhance the availability of evidence-based approaches to formulating programs and strategies and would by extension significantly enhance effectiveness.

PROGRAM CHARACTERISTICS

While many strategies for academic and social support and integration apply equally to students in STEM fields regardless of their racial or ethnic background, for underrepresented minority students these opportunities can be critical for opening doors that would not exist for them otherwise, because they have not, on average, had the same exposure to information and experiences that facilitate movement along the STEM pathway.18 See Box 7-5 for a list of selected promising programs. Key program characteristics that help mold the identities and motivation of students as STEM practitioners and also develop their knowledge and skills include:

  • Summer Programs: Summer programs in mathematics, science, and engineering that include or target minority high school and undergraduate students provide experiences that stimulate interest in these fields through study, hands-on, active research or projects, and the development of a cadre of students who support each other in their interest. These programs may include college courses, workshops and seminars, career counseling, and social activities and have been found to “have positive effects on persistence (Ackermann, 1991; Garcia, 1991; Gold, Deming, and Stone, 1992; Pennick and Morning, 1983) “as well as positive effects on academic skills, test scores, first-year retention, and graduate rates (Evans, 1999).”19

  • Research Experiences: At the undergraduate level, engagement in rich research experiences allows for the further development of interest and competence in and identification with STEM. Research has shown that these experiences are critical in convincing students to pursue graduate study in STEM disciplines. They provide experience with the operations of science, very often seize the interest of students who then develop a fascination that translates into a career in STEM (Bauer and Bennett, 2003; Chubin and Ward, 2009; Clewell et al., 2005; Hackett, Croissant, and Schneider, 1992; Highsmith, Denes, and Pierre, 1998; Hunter et al., 2007; Kardash, 2000; Lopatto, 2003, 2004, 2007; Nagda et al., 1998; NRC, 2005a ; NRC, 2009; Pascarella and Staver, 1985; Rueckert, 2002; Russell et al., 2007; Walters, 1997).

18

B. C. Clewell et al. 2006. Final Report on the Evaluation of the National Science Foundation Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Program. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, pp. 34-35.

19

Ibid, p. 22.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×
  • Professional Development Activities: Similar to the importance of enriching research experiences, the provision of opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to engage in professional development activities, particularly in graduate programs, will provide additional opportunities to develop and socialize students within a discipline and profession. These activities include opportunities for networking, participation in conferences, and presentations of research (on campus or in other professional settings).20

  • Academic Support and Social Integration: Even if students are prepared, have adequate information, and are ambitious and talented enough to succeed in STEM fields, success may also hinge on the extent to which students feel socially and intellectually integrated into their academic programs and campus environments. The importance of social and intellectual integration for success is critical to all students, regardless of background. For minority students, who may feel like outsiders because they see few others “like themselves” among the student and faculty populations, this issue takes on even greater salience. The development of peer-to-peer support, study groups, program activities fostering social integration, and tutoring and mentoring programs may go a long way to overcome this critical hurdle. (See Box 7-6 for a review of the literature on academic and social support activities.)

  • Mentoring: Engaged mentors can provide students with information, advice, and guidance and support both generally and at critical decision points. This kind of support helps undergraduate and graduate students take full advantage of a program and may be the difference between a student completing or leaving a program. At the undergraduate level, helping a student prepare and apply for graduate school can make the difference between whether a minority student continues in the STEM pathway. In graduate school, mentors provide important guidance and support to students, reducing attrition, helping students maximize their educational experience, and providing guidance on launching a career.21 It is often suggested that students are best served by mentors from the same minority groups as the students, especially minority professionals, but we note the “countless others” who have served as excellent mentors and must also do so in the future.

Beyond these student-focused activities, there are additional steps that institutions and STEM departments can engage in that make a difference in student outcomes. The availability or accessibility of institutional research infrastructure—that is, laboratories and equipment—and provision for

20

National Research Council, 2005. Assessment of NIH Minority Research and Training Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

21

National Research Council. 2005. Assessment of NIH Minority Research and Training Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

BOX 7-5

Selected Promising Interventions

These programs are listed because of their prominence and, in some instances, longevity. Some have undergone rigorous evaluations and shown to be effective, while others have more anecdotal reports of their impact.


Undergraduate Programs


Meyerhoff Scholars Program

The University of Maryland Baltimore County Meyerhoff Scholars Program is a leading producer of high-achieving minorities who go on to graduate and professional study and careers in STEM. Program components include summer bridge program, scholarship support, tutoring and mentoring, research experiences, study abroad, and networking.


Mathematics Workshop Program

The program was developed by Uri Treisman of the University of California, Berkeley, to reverse the low success rate in entry-level calculus and the high attrition rate in math-related fields for minority students who were interested in pursuing STEM careers.


Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement Program (RISE)

RISE enables minority institutions to increase the number of minorities in biomedical and behavioral research who complete PhDs in these fields. It is funded by the National Institutes of Health.


The Leadership Alliance

Based at Brown University, the Leadership Alliance is an academic consortium of 33 diverse institutions dedicated to promoting the entry of minorities into graduate school and the professoriate. Features include summer research, faculty resource network, specialized seminars and handbooks, graduate student support, and a national symposium.


Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP)

Established by the National Science Foundation, the LSAMP program aims to develop strategies to increase the quality and quantity of minority students who successfully complete degrees in STEM through multi-institution alliances across the nation.


Howard Hughes Medical Institute Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP)

EXROP provides talented undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds with summer research experiences in the labs of HHMI investigators and HHMI professors. The students are selected by HHMI professors ad invited directors of HHMI-funded undergraduate programs at institutions. They attend meetings at HHMI headquarters, where they present their research in a poster session, network with their peers and HHMI scientists, and hear from scientific researchers from various backgrounds and at various stages in their career.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

Graduate Programs


The National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Science and Engineering (GEM)

The GEM Consortium leverages its base funding and resources of consortium member universities to combine paid fellowships and internships with industry to prepare minorities for the global workplace. Through its university and employer members and other partners, GEM awards portable graduate fellowships and builds mentor networks for recipients.


National Institutes of Health (NIH) Minority Research and Training Programs

The (R25) Bridge to the Doctorate, (T32) NRSA Minority Institutional Research Training program, (T35) NRSA Short-Term Institutional Training Grants, (F31) NRSA Minority Institutional Research Training and Predoctoral Fellowship Programs, and (R03) Minority Dissertation Research Grant all help to increase the supply of minorities in graduate programs.


Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program

McNair is one of eight TRIO programs funded by the Department of Education. Funds are awarded to institutions to prepare underrepresented students to complete the PhD. Project activities include support for scholarly activities, summer internships, mentoring, and financial support.


Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP)

This program furthers the graduate education of underrepresented STEM students through the doctorate level, preparing them for fulfilling opportunities and productive careers as STEM faculty and research professionals. AGEP also supports the transformation of institutional culture to attract and retain STEM doctoral students into the professorate.


Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Bridge to the Doctorate

The NSF LSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate provides two years of fellowship support for graduate students in STEM disciplines. Awards include student stipends and a cost-of-education allowance to the institution for tuition, health insurance, and other normal fees.


Ford Foundation Fellowships Program

Administered by the National Research Council, the program provides graduate fellowships to minorities who are committed to an academic career in teaching and research.


SOURCE: Cheryl B. Leggon and Willie Pearson, Jr. 2008. Assessing programs to improve minority participation in STEM Fields: What we know and what we need to know, in R. Ehrenberg and C. Kuh, eds., Doctoral Education and the Faculty of the Future. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

BOX 7-6

Review of Literature on Student Support

Tutoring. Tutoring has been shown to be effective in increasing student persistence, positive attitudes toward subjects, and student performance (Carman, 1975; Gahan-Rech, Stephens, and Buchalter, 1989). No differences in achievement outcomes have been found for peer tutoring versus staff tutoring (Moust and Schmidt, 1994). Benefits of tutoring have been established not only for those receiving tutoring, but also for the tutors themselves (Bargh and Schul, 1980; Good, Halpin, and Halpin, 1998).


Peer Study Groups. Peer study groups are a fundamental component of several successful programs to increase the achievement and retention of underrepresented minorities in STEM. Program evaluation results of both the Mathematics Workshop Program (MWP) and replication programs have shown that workshop participants who work in peer study groups are more likely to persist in SME, graduate, and earn high grades in the study subject (Alexander, Burda, and Millar, 1997; Bonsangue and Drew, 1995; Fullilove and Treisman, 1990; Moreno and Muller, 1999; Murphy, Stafford, and McCreary, 1998; Treisman 1992). A meta-analysis of the effects of small-group learning on undergraduate STEM students found that various forms of small-group learning are effective in increasing academic achievement, persistence in STEM, and developing more favorable attitudes toward learning (Springer, Stanne, and Donovan, 1999).


Skills-Building Seminars. The effectiveness of seminars and workshops to build study skills, test-taking strategies, time management, and other skills that are useful to college success has been rarely studied (Gándara, 1999), although limited evidence that they are effective has been found (Novels and Ender, 1988).


Learning Centers. There is not much research on the effects of learning centers, but observations linking their presence on campus to student learning have been documented (Holton and Horton, 1996).


Academic Advising and Mentoring There have been several studies of academic advising as a strategy used in retention programs. Of these, some studies have established their positive effect on student retention or satisfaction with their institutions (Backhus, 1989; Forrest, cited in Pascarella and Terenzini, 1991; Lowe and Toney, 2001; Trippi and Cheatham, 1991). Although mentoring has become an important element of most intervention programs for underrepresented minorities, research evidence on its effectiveness continues to be mostly qualitative. What evidence does exist, however, suggests that for minority students, mentoring results in such positive outcomes as higher GPAs, lower attrition, increased self-efficacy, and better defined academic goals (Santos and Reigadas, 2002; Schwitzer and Thomas, 1998; Thile and Matt, 1995). Mentoring has been said to facilitate students’ academic and social integration (Redmond, 1990).


SOURCE: B.C. Clewel, et al. 2006. Final Report of the Evaluation of the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Progress Program, pp. 38-39.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

research opportunities at federal laboratories may determine the level of success in STEM areas that students may aspire to. Institutions should procure adequate facilities and equipment or partner as possible with other nearby institutions to facilitate the access of their students to these other resources. The federal government can assist by providing institutions with funding for facilities and equipment or by supporting the development of networks among institutions that would provide access to these types of resources, among other things.

In addition to equipment and facilities, the curriculum may also require a makeover. As shown in the Higher Education Research Institute data displayed in Chapter 4, undergraduates regardless of race/ethnicity are less likely to persist and complete in their intended major if they begin in a STEM field compared to a non-STEM field. Seymour and Hewitt (1997) found that students switched out of mathematics, science, and engineering majors at higher rates than for other fields and that this was due in part to the culture of these fields and the characteristics of classes, particularly introductory classes, in these fields, some of which sought intentionally to “weed out” students. Further, they discovered that women and underrepresented minorities were more likely to be turned off by the way science is taught, internalizing difficulties when facing challenges rather than assigning blame to the larger scientific and educational culture. Seymour and Hewitt found that students’ experiences were characterized by:

  • Poor teaching or organization of material;

  • Hard or confusing material, combined with loss of confidence in their ability to do science;

  • Cutthroat competition in assessment systems geared more to weeding out than to encouraging students;

  • Dull subject matter; and

  • Grading systems that did not reflect what students felt they had accomplished.

Further, many of those who stayed also complained about poor teaching and an unpleasant atmosphere. Both male and female switchers reported that negative experiences in freshman science were more important than positive experiences in other fields in reaching their decision to leave. Efforts on the part of institutions, departments, and faculty to change curricula to provide more hands-on, active learning and to encourage rather than weed out students could play a significant role in increasing the participation of underrepresented minorities.22

22

Elaine Seymour and Nancy M. Hewitt. 1997. Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 10-11.

Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×

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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Suggested Citation:"7 The Journey Beyond the Crossroads." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2011. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12984.
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Next: 8 Recommendations and Implementation Actions »
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In order for the United States to maintain the global leadership and competitiveness in science and technology that are critical to achieving national goals, we must invest in research, encourage innovation, and grow a strong and talented science and technology workforce. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation explores the role of diversity in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce and its value in keeping America innovative and competitive. According to the book, the U.S. labor market is projected to grow faster in science and engineering than in any other sector in the coming years, making minority participation in STEM education at all levels a national priority.

Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation analyzes the rate of change and the challenges the nation currently faces in developing a strong and diverse workforce. Although minorities are the fastest growing segment of the population, they are underrepresented in the fields of science and engineering. Historically, there has been a strong connection between increasing educational attainment in the United States and the growth in and global leadership of the economy. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation suggests that the federal government, industry, and post-secondary institutions work collaboratively with K-12 schools and school systems to increase minority access to and demand for post-secondary STEM education and technical training.

The book also identifies best practices and offers a comprehensive road map for increasing involvement of underrepresented minorities and improving the quality of their education. It offers recommendations that focus on academic and social support, institutional roles, teacher preparation, affordability and program development.

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