The AGEP-T program has been established by the NSF to encourage institutions of higher education and other stakeholders to form strategic alliances and propose innovative models to increase the quality and quantity of underrepresented minorities (URMs) in STEM graduate education, STEM postdoctoral studies and the STEM Professoriate (URMs include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders). The focus of the proposed symposium is to have active AGEP-T alliances engage in dialogues on the development, implementation, study and evaluation of their respective models for URM STEM graduate education and transitions to careers in academia. The dialogue will consist of presentations by three AGEP-T alliances (led by Tuskegee University, Stony Brook University and Texas A&M University) to describe their models and associated research and evaluation activities, followed by a discussion with the audience. These research and evaluative components are critical to investigate the effectiveness of each model. They are driven by strategically formulated research or evaluation questions that are studied by using qualitative and quantitative techniques from education and the social sciences.
Each AGEP-T Alliance will describe features that make their models unique and their potential to contribute to preparing URMs that are better motivated to pursue STEM research careers. For example, the innovative aspect of the Tuskegee AGEP-T Alliance lies in the virtual nature project interventions. The uniqueness of the Stony Brook AGEP-T model is based on a strategic alliance that includes a national laboratory (Brookhaven National Laboratory) to facilitate the research productivity of their advanced URM doctoral students in STEM by providing them with a series of opportunities to learn technical competencies, develop research collaborations, and broaden their scientific networks. Finally, the originality of the Texas A&M AGEP-T model lies in the engagement of students in performing peer reviews, identifying and subsequently applying for competitive fellowship program and providing professional development to acquire skills for teaching at all levels.
The proposed symposium is organized by the “Tuskegee Alliance to Forge Pathways to Academic Careers in STEM (T-PAC)”, which is the only one amongst the eight AGEP-T Alliances currently in operation that is led by a Historically Black University – Tuskegee University. All AGEP-T Alliances are spearheaded by faculty members in key disciplinary areas who are the Principal Investigators, including STEM, behavioral sciences, education and diversity. These individuals will lead the proposed dialogue during this session.
The symposium dialogue will shed light on the factors that may adversely impact the academic success of URMs, and will illuminate positive practices leading to promising strategies that can be widely adopted to gradually increase URM representation in STEM research careers.
The Tuskegee Alliance to Forge Pathways to Academic Careers in STEM (T-PAC)
Melody L. Russell—Auburn University; Shaik Jeelani and Mohammed A. Qazi—both of Tuskegee University; and B. K. Robertson—Alabama State University
T-PAC is an AGEP-T collaborative effort among three doctoral granting institutions in the state of Alabama consisting of two Historically Black Universities, Tuskegee University (TU), and Alabama State University (ASU), and a Traditionally White Institution, Auburn University (AU). The focus of T-PAC is to recruit 18 first year URM doctoral students (T-PAC Scholars) at the three T-PAC Alliance institutions and assist them in their preparation through a promising novel model for STEM doctoral education. The novelty of the T-PAC model lies in the joint mentorship that is provided by engaging Scholars in interventions that are characterized by their virtual nature. These strategic interventions assist T-PAC Scholars to successfully progress through the various critical phases of their doctoral programs of study, such as passing graduate course work, preparation for qualifying examinations, carrying-out research and writing a publishable thesis.
The effectiveness of T-PAC’s interventions is investigated through comprehensive research and evaluative components. Our research is grounded in the theory of Social Cognitive Career Theory and STEM Identity and is guided by the following strategically formulated research questions:
- What factors impact STEM URMs decision to pursue careers as STEM faculty at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Traditionally White Institutions (TWIs)?
- What factors determine STEM identity development for URM STEM graduate students?
- Does STEM identity impact career choice and academic outcomes for URM in graduate programs across STEM disciplines?
Our presentation will start with a description of the T-PAC model and will be followed by a detailed discussion of the research that is being carried out to assess and understand the model’s effectiveness. Results-to-date will be shared.
AGEP-T Frontiers of Research and Academic Models of Excellence (FRAME): Bridging Research and Practice to Promote Academic Engagement of Underrepresented Minorities in STEM Fields
Sheri Clark—Stony Brook University
Combined, these activities support our goal to increase quantity and quality of research publications produced by AGEP-T students.
Finally, we will describe results of a longitudinal social science research study that builds on this programmatic intervention by examining whether one’s academic environment provides a threatening context for URM students (vs. non-URM students) in STEM that undermines URM students’ persistence in their STEM fields over time. Specifically, this study examines implicit theories of intelligence, confidence, and sense of belonging, to see if these psychosocial variables predict persistence in STEM fields over time. Supporting this possibility, preliminary results demonstrate that graduate students’ beliefs that their STEM colleagues believe intelligence is a fixed (versus malleable) entity may create a context of threat – particularly for members of an underrepresented group in STEM (i.e. women), impacting confidence and sense of belonging among women and leading women to consider dropping out of their STEM career pathway. A description of the AGEP-T FRAME model as well as the rationale, methods, and results of the research study that builds on this model will be discussed.
The Next Generation of Scholars: Recruiting and Retaining URM STEM Graduate Students
Rhonda Fowler—Texas A&M University
The Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) AGEP-T entitled “Collaborative Research: Advancing Interdisciplinary STEM Graduate Education in Energy and Sustainability Disciplines program” is designed to open multiple paths to the doctorate and professoriate for URM populations by successfully developing and sustaining large-scale, distributed, yet interconnected STEM communities among the diverse alliance institutions that increase participation, reduce barriers, and promote success of URM doctoral students preparing for careers in the professoriate. The alliance is led by five institutions granting Ph.D.’s in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) that include Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, and West Texas A&M University.
The programmatic interventions that are being implemented by this multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary alliance are centered on Energy and Sustainability. These interventions will enable us to more effectively recruit URMs into the Alliance and provide the community, training, research experiences, and mentoring to promote their success and interest in pursuing careers in the professoriate. The outcomes of the interventions are being investigated through comprehensive research and evaluative components.
The conceptual framework that is used to guide the alliance’s research plan is anchored around Social Cognitive Theory. The social science research study designed to gain an understanding of the effectiveness of the proposed interventions is guided by the following questions related to feelings of inclusion of URM STEM graduate students at each of the Alliance institutions in both experimental and applied settings:
- What effect does experiencing isolation or ostracism have on the productivity and progress of URM STEM graduate students and their intentions to continue to the professoriate?
- What factors (e.g., institutional, interpersonal, individual) promote or mediate against URM STEM students’ experiencing feelings of isolation or ostracism?
- How effectively are project activities impacting students’ educational and career plans, their sense of community, and their attitudes, beliefs, confidence, and skills related to successful completion of URM STEM PhDs and continuation into faculty/post doc positions?
- Do URM STEM students at all TAMUS AGEP-T institutions have a sense of community?
- Are the collaborative research efforts across TAMUS AGEP-T programs and institutions impacting the success of URM STEM students?
The presentation will start with a description of the TAMUS AGEP and will be followed with discussion of the research that is being carried out to assess and understand the effectiveness of the program. Types of data collected will be described. Results-to-date will be discussed.