The University System of Maryland (USM) Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP), with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County as the lead institution, seeks to establish its ninth cohort of Bridge to the Doctorate (BD) Fellows at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). The goal of USM's BD Program is to increase the number of underrepresented students earning Ph.D. degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Through the BD program, USM has strengthened both the undergraduate and graduate education pipelines and has created an expanded community of scholars within these disciplines. USM's BD Program advances knowledge and understanding of graduate recruitment, retention, and persistence of underrepresented students in STEM fields. As a result, this program has provided and will continue to provide the country with well-trained, highly-skilled STEM professionals who will have core competencies in their disciplines and excellent training in research. Since the first USM BD cohort matriculated in 2005, 97 BD Fellows have enrolled in STEM graduate programs within the USM LSAMP. Ninety-seven percent of the individuals in the eight cohorts are currently persisting or have completed at least one graduate degree in STEM disciplines.
The 2014-2016 BD program at UMCP will broaden participation of underrepresented students in STEM Ph.D. programs and in STEM research, by providing financial, academic, professional and social support to a cohort of 12 graduate students. Through BD community meetings, advising, counseling and follow-up, BD Fellows will experience a smooth transition into graduate education and become engaged in a supportive community comprised of students, faculty and staff. Additionally, Fellows will expand their research and professional training through numerous opportunities to participate in scientific meetings and research symposia. This project expands students' access to professional and personal development resources through a series of activities in collaboration with the UMCP Sloan Scholars Program, the UMCP GEM Fellows Program, and the Maryland Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) Program. This program will continue to enhance the current USM initiatives to retain, graduate, and expand opportunities for students. In addition to the two years of BD funding, UMCP will ensure that Fellows receive sufficient additional support to complete terminal degree programs. Building upon past program assessments, a 2014 program evaluation that includes in-depth interviews and focus groups will be conducted to better understand the factors that contribute to student success and the barriers that impede progress towards degree completion. Furthermore, evaluation results will be used to inform and adjust practices and programs for the 2014 cohort.