Friday, November 8, 2013

@SloanFoundation helping to increase Minority PhD's in STEM Areas

I'm in New York today serving on the Advisory Committee for the Sloan Foundation's Minority Ph.D. STEM grant program. It's an exciting time to be working with their office. They are in the process of re-imagining their investments to address the dearth of Minority Ph.D.'s being produced by the leading research active STEM departments. They have introduced two new funding models: The smaller Program in Exemplary Mentoring (PEM) aimed at promoting accommodating climate in individual departments, and the larger University Centers of Exemplary Mentoring (UCEMs) encompassing several departments and including graduate student fellowships.

It should be obvious from the names of these programs, but I'll hit you with a two by four… The common theme is the emphasis on mentoring. Anecdotal and research-based data both suggest that mentoring is one of the most effective actions for lowering the barriers faced by minority students in pursuing a Ph.D. and beyond. However, not all mentoring is equally good. It also involves people (and increased contact time), and that's expensive. Put this all together and it turns out that it's not so easy to construct sustainable and effective mentoring programs. This is where the funding from the Sloan Foundation plays such a crucial role. It provides both motivation for universities to compete to do it well, and funds that can be leveraged by diversity champions on their campuses.

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