The State University of New York Alliance for the Graduate Education and the Professoriate (SUNY AGEP) started in 1999 as a minority graduate education program that included four major SUNY institutions: Stony Brook University as lead institution and its strategic partners University at Albany, Binghamton University, and University at Buffalo. Since the program?s inception, these institutions have supported the career and professional development of 116 Ph.D. graduates and have provided direct support to over 500 students and 80 graduate programs. The broader goal of the AGEP Alliance is to catalyze institutional change to increase the number of underrepresented minority faculty at American universities and colleges. Working towards this goal, each Alliance partner has developed an individualized program for its campus population. The diversified activities at each institution cover financial, academic, social, and professional development aspects of the graduate student experience; areas that are critical for the successful degree completion of underrepresented minority doctoral students and their future advancement into the professoriate. The goal of this evaluation project is to analyze the conditions required for the institutionalization of the most effective policies and practices that emerged through the project. In pursuit of this goal the PI will conduct an in-depth analysis of the project's measurable outcomes through a summative evaluation that will provide evidence of project impact in key areas of recruitment, retention and career advancement. The findings will reveal best practices for institutionalization and opportunities for future exploration and programming. Intellectual Merit: Most of the studies of academic support focus on the K-12 and undergraduate levels, thus there is a critical need for more data and analysis from the perspective of graduate school and career advancement. The findings of the evaluation component of this project will contribute to the knowledge base on effective strategies for STEM graduate persistence and graduation. Broader Impacts: The NSF AGEP project is a pioneer program that has introduced effective models for engaging and supporting underrepresented minority graduate students towards success. The findings of the Alliance?s ten year history will reveal useful procedures and strategies for recruitment, retention and career advancement that will be transferable to other graduate programs within the SUNY AGEP Alliance and beyond. Ultimately, this research will support efforts to increase race/ethnicity representation in the science and engineering workforce as well as in the Academy. The evaluation will conclude with a report for publication.

Project Report

Since the inception of the State University of New York AGEP Alliance (Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo with Stony Brook as the lead) in 1999, comprehensive activities and services have been created to broaden access to and success of historically underrepresented minority (URM) students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) doctoral programs. These activities were designed to help students successfully advance through rigorous curricula via a series of strategic interventions, advocacy, and support with the ultimate goal of transitioning our well trained scientists into the workforce, with an emphasis on careers in the Professoriate. This evaluation study identified and analyzed the variables that led to the desired project outcomes Trends in the number of URM graduate students enrolled in STEM fields and being awarded doctoral degrees are key indicators of success. Impressively, over the 10 years project period, the number of URM students enrolled in STEM fields at the graduate level increased steadily and substantially from 2002-2008 across the alliance institutions (80%). Most importantly, from the start of AGEP in 1999 to its tenth year in 2009, the number of doctoral degrees awarded to URM students in STEM fields across the alliance institutions more than quadrupled (7 in 1999 to 33 in 2009). SUNY AGEP discovered through its more than 10 years of experience that recruiting and retaining URM graduate students is most effective when the work is done in partnership with faculty, administration, alumni and other organizations that have common goals. It is therefore very important that university and government administration publicly present policies and strategies to attract and support URM students. The sharing of best practices is an important exercise. The following SUNY AGEP best practices have emerged as a result of our evaluation project: Mentoring and Advising. There seems to be widespread agreement that graduate students are best served by having several mentors. We suggest the following as a basic outline of best practice areas in mentoring graduate students: access to multiple mentors, regular meetings between students and mentors, and a method for assessing mentoring effectiveness. Community Building. We have noted over the years and in multiple sites that the following activities have brought students together in productive environments with many benefits: mutual support, networking, and a sense of belonging. Community building should start early and offer a continuous cycle of events as well as opportunities for students to interact informally. Peer Mentoring. A successful peer-mentoring program should be organized and monitored. Mentors and mentees should be matched based on mutual interests, expectations and responsibilities should be made clear and regular contact between mentors and mentees should be maintained, with journals kept by both mentors and mentees. Academic Support. Academic support must be individualized and offered in real time with tutors and study groups best suited to the students in need. Results of academic support should be assessed with follow up reviews of course grades and interviews to consider benefits and any issues related to confidence and motivation. AGEP and other programs offering academic support should align themselves with departments to be sure their efforts are successful. Professional Development. Programs should be structured, organized and address issues important to students at different points through their graduate careers (e.g. early vs. advanced graduate students) and should aim to facilitate the development of the skills necessary for placement in the professoriate. The NSF AGEP program was designed to build administrative and academic infrastructures that support the goals of broadening participation in the American scientific workforce. We are therefore pleased that this evaluation study uncovered ample evidence that SUNY AGEP played an important role in the lives of underrepresented minority STEM students at participating SUNY universities. From initial recruiting through orientation, financial support, advising, social support, and mentoring, the Alliance staff and activities help students to achieve success in graduate school, overcome challenges, and plan productive futures. It also promoted a positive attitude toward the professoriate and careers that combine research and teaching. In fact, 26% of AGEP students that received a Ph.D. from Stony Brook are currently in faculty positions and another 28% are in a postdoctoral positions with an expressed interested in pursuing research careers. By providing important academic and social resources for URM graduate students who might not otherwise receive these resources from their departments or the institution more broadly, SUNY AGEP has been able to address and alleviate important gaps to help URM graduate students enter and complete STEM graduate degrees so that they may participate in the nations STEM workforce as major contributors and leaders.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Human Resource Development (HRD)
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Mark H. Leddy
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State University New York Stony Brook
Stony Brook
United States
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