To increase the number of graduate students and postdocs entering the professoriate in STEM disciplines, the Leadership Alliance, a national consortium of higher education institutions, in conjunction with its member institutions, Brown University and Columbia University, and in collaboration with four minority serving institutions - Dillard University, Howard University, Morgan State University, and Spelman College - will design, pilot, and rigorously evaluate activities to foster professional development, skills-building, mentoring, and career training. The activities of this project consist of (i) conducting a baseline needs analysis of the diversity efforts at Brown and Columbia to better understand issues and barriers to establishing a sustainable institutional culture of diversity; (ii) investigating incentive mechanisms to promote the engagement of participating departmental faculty and administrators in the proposed mentoring and professional development activities to provide a supportive environment that fosters successful outcomes; (iii) and identifying effective strategies to develop and implement mentoring, skills-building and professional development opportunities for underrepresented graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Intellectual Merit This project will provide the first systematic effort to: (i) identify the professional development and career training needs of STEM graduate students and postdocs from underrepresented groups at leading research institutions; (ii) evaluate best practices in training of doctoral students and postdocs; (iii) assess the effectiveness of a comprehensive program of professional development workshops on the mentoring and skills-building of STEM graduate students and postdocs from underrepresented groups. The comprehensive, multi-faceted evaluation efforts of these interventions that employ the expertise of STEM faculty members, senior administrators, an external evaluator, graduate students and postdocs from both research-intensive and minority-serving institutions will provide a foundation upon which to design novel, relevant and effective best practices, resources and initiatives that will prepare underrepresented minority STEM graduate students and postdocs for the 21st century professoriate. Broader Impacts This project supplements earlier efforts to expand the pipeline of scholars from underrepresented groups in STEM disciplines, which focus on pre-collegiate and undergraduate students. By firmly focusing on graduate students and postdocs, who have already firmly committed their professional lives to STEM fields, this project's overarching goal is to give them the skills to ensure professional success. The larger objective is to encourage the creation of sustainable institutional cultures and programs that will increase the diversity of the professoriate in STEM disciplines, not simply at Brown and Columbia but across the 32 members of the Leadership Alliance consortium and at other institutions of higher learning. This project's broad impact will take five specific, measurable forms. First, it will provide research universities nationwide with a review and evaluation of existing professional development, career training, skills-building,and mentoring programs for graduate students and postdocs from underrepresented groups at institutions across the United States. Second, this project will design, pilot, and assess replicable workshops in areas essential to the professional success of future STEM faculty. Third, the project will create and test instructional resources that will be readily available to institutions of higher learning via project website. Fourth, the project will provide postdocs from underrepresented groups authentic teaching experience to be better positioned for a future career as a professor. Fifth, this project will alter institutional cultures at leading research institutions by placing a greater emphasis on mentoring, professional development, skills-building, and career training to prepare students and postdocs to progress successfully along the academic pathway. All best practices in professional development and evaluations of the practices' effectiveness will be disseminated through the Leadership Alliance consortium, the project website, and public presentations and other outreach efforts. Through these activities this novel and potent Inter-Ivy AGEP will contribute to the societal goal of increased representation of underrepresented scholars as research leaders of the 21st century professoriate.

Project Report

Given the changing U.S. demographics, there is an urgent need to increase the number of underrepresented minorities who pursue research careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). However, there is a significant lack of minority faculty at the "top 50" academic institutions and poor representation of minority trainees in STEM programs at these same schools relative to their presence in the population. The urgency of this issue has captured the attention of national policy makers, who have called for an increase in the participation of U.S. citizens in these fields and, a focus on increasing minority representation. In response to this problem, research intensive universities and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that are members the Leadership Alliance began discussions of a program to improve the ways in which faculty, students and administrators work together to promote a more supportive culture and diverse academy across graduate programs. The Leadership Alliance is a national consortium of 32 public and private institutions that identify, train and mentor underrepresented minority (URM) students at all stages of their higher education experience. With more than 2600 undergraduates participating in summer research experiences over the past 20 years, Alliance programs have contributed to the production of nearly 200 minority PhDs primarily in the STEM disciplines. Building on their time-tested partnership within the Alliance, two Ivy-League member institutions (Brown University and Columbia University) partnered with four HBCU members (Spelman College, Howard University, Morgan State University, and Dillard University) to form the Piloting an Inter-Ivy League Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate. This pilot program focused on graduate school activities or interventions to support the learning and professional development needs of URM graduate trainees. The immediate question of what these interventions might look like was examined in three ways. A review was conducted of other AGEP programs, research literature and current activities related to the goals of this project. Using what was learned from this review, the project team visited the campuses of Ivy League and HBCU institutions participating in this pilot as well as additional Alliance member institutions that agreed to share their successes or challenges in addressing the shortage of URM graduate students. Team members interviewed groups of graduate students, individual students and postdoctoral fellows, and individual faculty and administrators to learn about the support URM students received or needed. Faculty and administrator perspectives also revealed the need for incentives to encourage and build faculty mentorship and professional development opportunities. Finally, meetings were held with an advisory board and with faculty interested in working together across Ivy League and HBCU institutions. Discussions from these meetings shaped key areas for development of program activities while, at the same time, identified critical principles for partnering across Ivy League institutions and HBCUs. Key areas for development of program interventions included mentoring practices, career development, academic preparation, and faculty collaboration. Use of existing resources or programs in support of both mentoring practices and career development was highly recommended. Examples included a mentoring course that could be modified to cover student research opportunities and writing support, a professional skills development program, and conferences for student or peer interaction across institutions. Other suggested innovations included a peer mentoring program and the inclusion of HBCU faculty on graduate student doctoral thesis committees at research institutions. Issues related to academic preparation centered on an insufficient number of undergraduate advanced courses and basic course content in STEM disciplines. To ensure students are academically prepared for graduate programs, recommended activities included faculty exchanges between HBCU and research institutions, development of an intensive summer institute to support graduate school preparation, online tutorials and a database of learning resources, and a first-year graduate course to provide mentoring, academic support, and informational or research sessions hosted by faculty and graduate school administrators. Additionally, project participants suggested that there be a proactive approach to career development in graduate students' first year, such as the establishment of a program or to provide outside speakers from academia, industry, government, and not-for-profit agencies. Discussion of institutional culture or community indicated a strong need for more faculty interaction to understand and ensure coordination of program components. Specifically, this requires clarification of the value-added benefits to both HBCU and research institution faculty, a principle viewed as essential to open and mutually rewarding partnerships. As a result, a series of faculty retreats and regional conferences have been planned to build understanding of recommended program components and develop faculty relationships across institutions. The first faculty retreat identified shared faculty research and mentorship, joint grant writing, and self-study as important first steps in the HBCU and research institution program development process. An online website for faculty and other institutional participants in these retreats has been set up to share ongoing updates of meeting activities and archive resources and information for ongoing development efforts and opportunities.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Human Resource Development (HRD)
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Mark H. Leddy
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Brown University
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