Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Historically Black Colleges and Universities Can Promote Leadership and Excellence in STEM (Editor's Commentary)

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Historically Black Colleges and Universities Can Promote Leadership and Excellence in STEM (Editor's Commentary)

Article excerpt

In 2012, President Barack Obama introduced a plan to increase the number of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates by 1 million over the next 10 years through the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology initiative (Seadler, 2012). Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) play a pivotal role in helping the United States of America achieve a national priority to expand careers in STEM disciplines. HBCUs graduate 40 percent of Black students graduating with degrees in biological science, physics, chemistry, astronomy, environment sciences and mathematics (Jackson, 2013; Owens et al., 2012; Palmer, Davis, & Thompson, 2010).

The purpose of this article is to elucidate factors that are important to the long-term success of HBCUs in preparing STEM students, by summarizes data from the Minority Male STEM Initiative (MMSI), which was collected by The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). Although the surveys focused on the needs of minority males, both male and female STEM students participated in the surveys. The purpose of the MMSI surveys were to understand how university administrators, STEM faculty, and students of color in STEM disciplines currently navigate the path to recruiting, retaining and graduating underrepresented students in STEM disciplines.

The original study focused on STEM students from 1,442 underrepresented students across 14 institutions, including 3 HBCUs. However, this report will outline findings that are relevant to HBCUs. Details of the survey instruments, procedures, methods of recruitment, and participants are available in A Quest for Excellence (Toldson & Esters, 2012). Survey results revealed a variety of characteristics and practices of the institutions, faculty, and administrators who prepare minority students for STEM fields.

Lesson Learned from STEM Faculty and University Administrators

Content analysis methods were used to summarize faculty members' and administrators' optional open-ended comments regarding their universities' commitment to recruiting, retaining and graduating minority students in STEM fields. The number of unique comments made about university practices were identified and then manually sorted into three broad categories: proactive practices, ambivalence or indifference, and obstructive practices. SPSS Text Analysis for Surveys was used to facilitate manual coding and sorting of the comments into more discrete categories.

Recruitment and Outreach

Faculty and administrators were asked to describe any recruitment or outreach activities by their institution specifically designed to encourage underrepresented students to consider a major and career in the STEM disciplines. Of the more than 200 faculty members and administrators who took the survey, only 33 provided a response to this inquiry.

Institutions with proactive practices were able to list specific programs and initiatives that bolstered outreach efforts. Specific programs listed included the National Science Foundation (NSF) Bridge to the Doctorate Program, Alliance for Minority Participation (AMP), Upward Bound, and university-initiated minority programs. Many other university representatives gave statements that reiterated their commitment, which listed specific programs. Several respondents noted that they were not aware of any university initiatives to recruit students of color in STEM disciplines. Key terms included scholarships, mentors, faculty, community, research experiences, and learning community.

Evaluating Success

Faculty and administrators were asked how their institution evaluates the success of its efforts to attract, recruit, retain, and graduate students of color in STEM fields. In total, 43 participating faculty members and administrators responded to the inquiry. Most of the respondents who indicated that they have a formal evaluation process were mandated to collect data to maintain external funding. …

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