Participation by underrepresented groups in STEM disciplines plummets between undergraduate and graduate studies. Underlying drivers are many, but an ability to close the gap between undergraduate and graduate The Inclusive Graduate Education Network Alliance proposes an innovative strategy to eliminate the underrepresented racial and ethnic minority gap within the five year timespan of this grant, and to institutionalize inclusive, evidence-based practices for selecting and training a diverse, innovative, and globally competitive scientific workforce. The primary partners in the IGEN Alliance are the American Physical Society, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Astronomical Society, and Materials Research Society. These societies are uniquely positioned to lead efforts in the physical sciences that empower faculty members to reform and improve their graduate education practices. Additional partners from disciplinary societies representing UREM students, major national laboratories, prominent industries, and leading social science researchers, together represent a constellation of organizations and individuals that can address systemic issues that inhibit success of underrepresented students in attaining doctoral degrees — degrees that enable them to advance science and provide technological innovations for the United States. participation has been demonstrated in physics through the American Physical Society's (APS) Bridge Program.
The effort described here expands upon these dramatic successes and works to change the current paradigm of admissions, retention, and professional development in graduate departments throughout the physical sciences. Chemistry, physics, material science/engineering, astronomy, and geoscience programs collectively graduate 5,500 PhDs each year, and will significantly shape the technical and scientific workforce for future generations. The allied power and community standing of the primary professional societies across these disciplines enable a revolutionary approach to erasing inequity, and improving the culture of graduate education for all.
This project takes a full-spectrum, cross-sector approach to addressing participation and success of underrepresented students by: (1) improving mentoring of undergraduates, (2) transforming graduate admissions, (3) recruiting large numbers of underrepresented racial / ethnic minority (UREM) students who would otherwise not enter graduate studies through a centralized process, successfully coordinated by the APS over the past 6 years, and (4) improving graduate retention measures that include induction efforts, multiple mentors, "high-touch" monitoring and intervention (as needed) for students early in their academic careers, and focused attention to graduate student life. Finally, enhanced professional development of students and their mentors will optimize transitions into their professional lives.
IGEN is committed to achieving an audacious goal of increasing the number of UREM students to the level where there is no difference in attainment rates by such students between bachelor's and doctoral degrees. The APS Bridge Program and the systemic reforms demonstrated in the IGEN Launch Pilot, are already on track to achieve this goal in physics. Using a collective impact approach, APS will lead disciplinary societies working together to realize similar results. Closing the participation gap can be achieved in a relatively short period of time, through the innovative recruiting strategy used in physics, and replicable elsewhere. However, sustaining this outcome will require a shift in paradigms that underlie graduate admissions, retention, and completion practices. This project champions such efforts across disciplines, drawing from published research on effective practices, and demonstrated community successes. Linking and engaging these disciplines brings forth an unprecedented broad-based solution. Considerable effort will be placed on educating the disciplinary and wider scientific communities with evidence-based strategies through direct engagement. The proposed multifaceted strategy will address the desire of institutions to enhance recruitment and diversity, while challenging existing cultures that explicitly or inadvertently perpetuate bias and inequity. It is our vision and within our reach, to change the prevailing culture while maintaining the strengths that US graduate programs bring to the scientific community.