The Northeast Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (NEAGEP) is a highly interactive group of Research I and minority-serving institutions that includes private and public, as well as large and small schools. By piloting and sharing novel strategies, the Alliance has made a large contribution to diversifying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Ph.D. programs in the Northeast. The number of URM students earning STEM doctorates from these institutions has nearly doubled. Unfortunately, there has been neither sufficient numbers of students nor funds to meaningfully evaluate what strategies are most effective for recruiting and retaining URM STEM doctoral students. Even more relevant to the goal of the NSF AGEP program, there has been no assessment of what factors influence career choices of URM STEM Ph.D.s and what factors ensure their success in academia. To address these issues, the PI group will work with external evaluators at TERC, a STEM education organization, to conduct a NEAGEP-wide summative evaluation. The evaluators will conduct personal interviews with current STEM doctoral students and Ph.D. graduates of NEAGEP institutions, and also solicit input from all NEAGEP coordinators to develop two on-line surveys. One survey will be administered to approximately 565 URMs who obtained STEM Ph.D. degrees during the 10 years of NEAGEP, and the other to the over 550 current URM STEM doctoral students. The results will be important for developing new programs in the next phase of NEAGEP. Intellectual Merit: There is now a sufficiently large population of students at different points in their careers so that an external team can conduct a very informative, large-scale evaluation of NEAGEP programs. The team will objectively assess what types of activities are most effective at diversifying the STEM professoriate. The focus will be on recruitment and retention activities, but, more importantly, on what activities influence these students to pursue careers in academia. This evaluation will provide new insights important for increasing diversity in the professoriate, a goal that must be achieved in order to engage a broader portion of the U.S. citizenry in STEM. Broader Impacts: The results will generate information that will inform the design and revision of programs to recruit URM undergraduates into STEM graduate programs. In addition, these data will also promote institutionalization of programs that increase participation of both URM and non-URM U.S. students in STEM. Finally, the evaluation findings will be published so that other institutions and alliances can conserve and/or better direct resources by learning what does and does not work in large and small, as well as public and private, universities that comprise NEAGEP. Integration of Research with Teaching and Learning: Many of the NEAGEP strategies involve integration of research with teaching and learning. By formally evaluating the impact of these strategies, it will be determined which are most effective. The effective strategies will then be expanded to integrate research and teaching initiatives across NEAGEP and publicized through the AGEP network.

Project Report

The NSF-funded Northeast Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (NEAGEP) consists of ten Research Intensive and five minority-serving institutions. These institutions share the goal of increasing the number of underrepresented minorities (URMs) who obtain STEM Ph.D. degrees. During the 12 years of the project, we have piloted and instituted a number of initiatives designed to recruit, retain and graduate students. Some of the strategies were shared across institutions and others were more individualized. To assess which of the strategies was most effective, we conducted the NEAGEP Summative Evaluation in collaboration with Dr. Mia Ong, an external evaluator from TERC. The results of this evaluation will inform future activities of NEAGEP institutions, as well as the broader network of AGEP institutions. The evaluation consisted of informal discussions with NEAGEP leaders at leach institution, focus groups with current NEAGEP graduate students and individual interviews with students and NEAGEP alumni. In addition, instruments were developed to survey both current graduate students and alumni. Results of the evaluation show that the experiences of students and alumni varied greatly across institutions. The most effective strategies were: 1) Offer consistent financial support; 2) build a supportive community of scholars; 3) provide regular social and professional development meetings; 4) provide consistent and multi-tier mentoring; 5) include faculty and graduate students in recruitment activities; 6) conduct summer programs that allow prospective students to perform research with faculty and graduate students at NEAGEP institutions. Recommendations for increasing recruitment, retention and career support were: 1) Host summer research programs; 2) increase interactions between faculty and prospective students; 3) encourage and fund URM students’ participation in disciplinary conferences; 4) offer social and community-building events consistently; and 5) provide monthly workshops focused on coping with the challenges of graduate school and careers.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Human Resource Development (HRD)
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Mark H. Leddy
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University of Massachusetts Amherst
United States
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