Maryland?s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) was founded in November 2002 and was officially named PROMISE (PROfessorial training for Mathematicians, Information technologists, Scientists, and Engineers), in April 2003. PROMISE is a strong alliance of the three public research universities in Maryland: the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC, the Honors University in Maryland), the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore. The mission of PROMISE going forward is to increase significantly the numbers and diversity of Ph.D.s who graduate from Maryland universities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Anyone who supports this mission, regardless of ethnicity, discipline, or status (part-time/full-time) is encouraged to participate in the activities of PROMISE as a partner to achieve the goal of developing highly skilled STEM professionals for the U.S. from a pool of traditionally under-tapped human resources. This alliance calls to action students from ethnic groups that are historically underrepresented in STEM. PROMISE is designed to cultivate and train leaders. By expanding the traditional program model of recruitment, retention, and successful graduation to include a strong emphasis on training and professional maturity, PROMISE seeks to develop students who prepare for leadership in their professions by becoming leaders in graduate school. To build these leadership qualities, PROMISE focuses on communication, public speaking, and other ?soft skills? together with an emphasis on academic and research excellence to empower students to achieve high levels of expertise and skill that the U.S. needs to tackle national technological concerns.

PROMISE: Maryland?s AGEP has been extremely effective at increasing the number of minority doctoral students in STEM disciplines and building a strong sense of community. This was the focus of a previous award and sets the stage for the next phase of activities supported by this award. This alliance has a large number of students in the pipeline to graduate. Therefore, this award will provide funding to continue and augment the most successful recruitment and community building activities of the prior award. The focus of this award is on retention, dissertation completion, and transition to the professoriate. PROMISE will expand existing programs and develop new initiatives based on the successes and lessons learned to serve both the graduate students of Maryland and graduate students around the country. Many of the proposed activities have been piloted, and are poised to move into full implementation.

Intellectual Merit: This project addresses the national need to increase participation of underrepresented minorities in science and engineering research careers, particularly in the professoriate. PROMISE: Maryland?s AGEP project will undertake a specific set of activities to address the problem of under representation at each key stage of graduate education with a focus on retention, dissertation completion, and transition to the professoriate. The project builds on the successful track record established individually and collectively by the PROMISE universities that have contributed to understanding what is required to successfully shepherd students through the Ph.D. (Bass et al., 2003; Tull et al., 2003; Tull et al.,2005).

Broader Impacts: This project will have broader impacts in four critical areas. Foremost among these is an increase in the number of Ph.D. degrees awarded to underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines. Improving the environment for minority STEM graduate students necessitates a change in the environment for all graduate students. Therefore, the project will have broader impact on graduate education generally, with these changes being institutionalized at PROMISE institutions. Third, the project will provide a broader and more holistic approach to graduate education that produces graduates who are prepared for academic careers. Finally, the project fosters partnerships that lead to impacts beyond PROMISE. This impact is achieved by building partnerships with other NSF funded initiatives such as the recently funded IGERT and engineering research center. These partnerships can achieve broader diversity, fostering connections between faculty at PROMISE institutions and colleges and universities that have a high production of minority STEM bachelor?s degrees for lasting change in recruiting and research collaborations, and building relationships with professional societies and NSF projects outside of Maryland.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Human Resource Development (HRD)
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Jessie A. Dearo
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University of Maryland Baltimore County
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