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Title: How do departments support their underrepresented minority doctoral students? Are they doing enough?
A major barrier to increasing the percentage of underrepresented minority (URM) faculty in STEM fields is the small number of URM applicants for academic positions. One factor contributing to this situation is that the two-year attrition rate of URM doctoral students is nearly 50%, substantially greater than the rate for non-URM students at most institutions. Many efforts have been made to decrease the attrition, most involving direct work with doctoral students and others concentrating on institutional changes such naming a high-level administrator to coordinate recruitment and retention efforts. Often lacking in these efforts are attempts to change faculty attitudes and practices that negatively affect student retention. Three public universities including one HBCU are currently carrying out a five-year project to develop and pilot-test a department-level process to fill this gap. Why the focus on the department level? Since URM students spend most of their time in their departments as they take classes, attend seminars, conduct research, and interact informally with department faculty, staff, and other graduate students, the climate they experience and the support they receive can have a major impact on their success. In addition, changes in a department can last well beyond the end of a grant. When interventions address students directly, once they graduate there may be no lasting change in the department. When faculty attitudes and mentoring practices change, on the other hand, the changes may last and continue to help students succeed long after the grant expires. The project seeks to help department faculty increase their understanding of the issues facing underrepresented minorities in doctoral programs, identify and remedy the departmental practices that may be hindering URM student success, and examine and improve their own mentoring practices. In the project, six cohorts of faculty members and both URM and non-URM doctoral students—two cohorts at each participating university—will be assembled and surveyed. The faculty members will be asked how their departments address recruitment and retention of URM students, how they personally support and mentor their URM students, and how welcoming and supportive of URM students they perceive their department to be. The students will be asked to express their level of satisfaction with their coursework and their relationships with faculty and other graduate students, describe the learning opportunities and mentoring they have received, and discuss how welcoming and supportive of URM students their departments have been. To initiate the gathering of baseline information, the first cohort—79 faculty members, 16 URM students, and 94 non-URM students from six STEM departments at one of the universities—was surveyed. This presentation will report and discuss the results.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1820536
NSF-PAR ID:
10218653
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
CoNECD - Collaborative Network for Computing and Engineering Diversity - Conference
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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