Catherine Didion, a Senior Program Officer of the NAE, introduced two overarching topics raised in plenary discussion sessions on the first day of the Colloquy that were tabled by general consensus until the closing plenary as many participants were concerned that they would require additional discussion time to adequately address.
- Data collection and reporting. Didion called attention to three specific challenges in this area: (a) For some minority populations, participation in STEM is sufficiently small that privacy concerns have prompted the practice of suppressing data on academic and professional progress. Yet such actions can significantly impede the ability to learn from promising and proven practices to increase participation in STEM. To inform and improve educational and professional practices, it is essential to achieve a balance between privacy concerns and researchers’ access to valuable information. (b) Minority-serving institutions are significant sources of minority STEM baccalaureate recipients, yet their contributions are inadequately recognized and they are often not properly reflected in data collection and reporting. (c) Better data are needed for community college student populations. Data on community college contributions to STEM baccalaureate degree attainment are lacking even though some reports indicate that up to a third of community college students are students of color1 and up to 50 percent of them aspire to transfer to a baccalaureate program. There is also concern about the definition of STEM. It clearly includes the physical and life sciences and engineering disciplines as well as technology fields associated with these disciplines, but does it also include management information systems or knowledge management systems? Analysts concerned about economic development and employment would expand the definition to incorporate many career and technical fields, whereas many traditional academics would not. In light of minority male interest in many technical fields and careers, should researchers view these fields as distinct, or as pathways to STEM, or as full partners of STEM? The utility of an in-depth discussion of the implications of such choices was suggested by several participants.
- The role of for-profit institutions of higher education in the education of minority males. Didion noted that data presented by Espinosa indicated that the online University of Phoenix and Strayer University were the fourth and fifth largest producers of STEM degrees for African American males in 2007 (Table 1). However, some for-profit educational institutions have engaged in practices that participants characterized as
1 According to a 2012 report published by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Challenge the Status Quo: Academic Success Among School-Age African American Males by Ivory A. Toldson and Chance W. Lewis, there are 1.2 million Black males in college and 43% attend a community college compared to 11% who attend a HBCU.
predatory. A future discussion should address (a) the relative merits of for-profit educational institutions in engaging and enrolling minority males, (b) public availability of the graduation rates of minority males from such institutions, and (c) the financial impact on minority males of choosing for-profit versus non-profit institutions for their education.
The following two additional concerns were raised during the closing plenary session:
- Efforts are needed to ensure that research programs are tied to actions that demonstrably achieve positive outcomes for minority males. There is a need for greater connectivity between research and implementation of programs based on the research.
- Although much of the discussion at the Colloquy was framed in terms of boys and young men in formal or informal educational systems, many minority males have left or are in danger of leaving these systems, suggesting the importance of continuous efforts to resolve surrounding issues that affect student enrollment, engagement, and completion of precollege education.
NSF Program Officer Jolene Jesse closed the Colloquy with an expression of appreciation for the participants’ engagement in forthright discussions and their thoughtful deliberations. She indicated that she would explore the possibility of a distinguished lectureship series at NSF on this topic to better inform the NSF community about emerging research findings and possible opportunities through collaborative research ventures.
She encouraged attendees both to submit their names for consideration as potential reviewers for NSF grants and to explore possible collaborations with their fellow researchers at the Colloquy. Finally she noted that participants might investigate the possibility of NSF support for elements of their research identified during the Colloquy.