Overcoming Barriers to Engagement of Underrepresented Students in STEM PhD Programs

Monday, October 12, 2020 - 4:15pm
California State Polytechnic University, Director, Cal-Bridge/Director, CAMPARE/CHAMP
Public Lecture: 

The level of participation by underrepresented minority (URM) and female students in STEM PhD programs is low: in physics and astronomy URMs earn only 6% of PhDs v. 30% in the general population; women earn only 20% of PhDs v. 50% in the general population. I present research into why these participation rates are so low, highlighting the role admissions practices, including the use of GRE tests, play in preventing qualified applicants from underrepresented groups matriculating to PhD programs, as well as broader societal barriers to true diversity and inclusion in the academy. I will describe some alternative methods of conducting graduate admissions, including the role of programs like Cal-Bridge.

Cal-Bridge is a California-wide, multi-institutional program with the mission of increasing the numbers of URM and women pursuing and earning PhD degrees in STEM. The Cal-Bridge program has selected 128 scholars in 7 cohorts: 81 (63%) are from URM groups and 58 (45%) are women: remarkably, 30 of the 58 women are from URM groups. Eighty-four (65%) of the 128 Cal-Bridge Scholars are first-generation college students and 23 (18%) identify as LGBTQ+. A total of 61 Cal-Bridge scholars have graduated with a BS and 90% of these scholars are either in a PhD program (62%) or are enrolled in an MS program (28%) and are planning to apply to PhD programs in the coming year.