It is well recognized that university faculty do not reflect the gender or ethnic composition of the United States population, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. This reflects critical shortages of US domestic graduate students, and minority graduate students in particular. While the number of minority students earning STEM doctoral degrees has increased over the past 20 years, national data show that there remains a need to enhance diversity among STEM doctoral degrees recipients. The Virginia Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (VAGEP) will serve as the facilitating organization for this project in partnership with Virginia Community Colleges, HBCUs, and the Appalachian Colleges Association. As part of the project, these institutions will conduct a state-wide survey of students in STEM programs to assess the reasons why they succeed (or not) in STEM disciplines. In addition, they will hold two state-wide conferences/workshops to discuss best practices across the state; the needs of students as assessed from the survey; and, next steps. Their ultimate goal is to create a structured mentoring network to attract talented students through undergraduate studies to graduate education and ultimately to the professoriate. Intellectual Merit According to numerous reports, the competitive edge of the Nation is at stake unless colleges and universities dramatically increase the number of students studying in STEM areas. It is imperative to understand the reasons why members of underrepresented groups are not pursuing careers in these disciplines. This project will focus on underrepresented groups in Virginia and formulate a plan of action based on findings that will address the issue of under-representation in STEM. Broader Impact The broader impact of the proposed work includes the benefits to society of a more diverse faculty serving as role models to attract students to the professoriate; enhanced collaborations between universities in Virginia to develop scientists in the Commonwealth; and, the creation of a model to help other states develop strategic networks to enhance their STEM enterprise.
The Virginia Council of Graduate Schools (VCGS) undertook this initiative to develop a collaborative state-wide network of higher education institutions (community college through research) to identify talented students of diverse backgrounds and provide mentoring throughout their graduate education and ultimately to the professoriate. Although the VAGEP model (network) hasnâ€™t yet finalized, the foundational work and data collection portions were completed. The planning grant provided funding for three state-wide conferences through which VAGEP members were able to (a) identify the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) needed by faculty by type of higher education institutions, (b) identify resources needed and the availability of these by institution, (c) identify barriers to progress and possible solutions, and (d) collect pertinent demographic data and institutional data. VAGEP used the NSF definition of STEM as Science, Social Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to compile a matrix of the STEM degrees offered (2-year through doctoral degree) in Virginia and organized these by institution type and location. Through the planning grant, VAGEP was able to identify various types of resources desired and included the following: recruitment, mentoring, assessment, TA training programs, future professoriate programs, pedagogy education, student advising, career advising, student services, ethics and RCR, and technology training. A matrix of these resources and availability by institutions remains a work in progress. The planning grant provided the opportunity to secure the participation of institutions of higher education in Virginia. Although many more were interested initially, forty (40) agreed to participate (9 community colleges, 11 baccalaureate colleges, 13 master's and 7 research universities). These were divided into four VAGEP regions with representation of each institution type in each region and the identification of a lead institution for each region. A key outcome of the planning grant was increased communication between and among institutions for greater understanding of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VCGS remains committed to implement our initial vision for a network to recruit, support and graduate talented students as the future faculty.