Academic journal article College and University

BRIDGING STEM PROFESSIONS for MCNAIR SCHOLARS THROUGH FACULTY MENTORING AND ACADEMIC PREPARATION

Academic journal article College and University

BRIDGING STEM PROFESSIONS for MCNAIR SCHOLARS THROUGH FACULTY MENTORING AND ACADEMIC PREPARATION

Article excerpt

According to recent reports, underrepresented minorities (urms) continue to be the most underrepresented populations in the stem workforce (Bell zoo 9; George et al. 2001; National Science Foundation 2006). The number of u.s. citizens from minority groups who have earned doctorates in science and engineering has increased over the past decade; however, urms continue to represent a small proportion of the scientists and engineers in the United States (nsf 2007,2009,2011,2013).

In the fields of science and engineering, African Americans accounted for 4.5 percent, Hispanics for 5.5 percent, and American Indians for 0.3 percent of the doctoral degrees awarded by u.s. institutions in 2011 (nsf 2012) whereas these groups accounted for 13.1 percent, 16.9 percent, and 1.2 percent, respectively-and combined, approximately 31 percent-of all u.s. residents in the comparable age bracket (U.S. Census 2012). Researchers also have noted that women are less likely than men to major and earn degrees in the fields traditionally defined as "hard" sciences and engineering (Nixon, Meikle and Borman 2013), though this is beyond the scope of this investigation.

In 2007 and 2010, the National Research Council reported that the United States was not producing enough graduates in the stem fields to meet the growing demands of an increasingly competitive global economy. Despite equivocal data in the research literature regarding the existence of a stem shortage in the United States (Anft 2013, Mangan 2013), failure to develop the talents of all members of the nations diverse citizenry will compromise its ability to meet future demands for a highly skilled and technically proficient workforce at a time when the opportunity for great advances is accelerating (Bell 2009; Lavrakas 2012; National Research Council 2007; Nixon, Meikle and Borman 2013).

Friedman and Kay (1990) note that while enrollments of women and urms in stem curricula may increase as a result of strong recruitment programs, issues related to retention and completion rates have yet to be adequately addressed at the institutional level. Indeed, attrition appears to be one of the greatest threats to the stem pipeline (DeSantis 2013). Finally, researchers have indicated that in the absence of culturally competent role models (Flores 2009, Kwan and Taub 2003), urms will continue to exist on the margins of the stem professions (Aguirre 2009, Bordes and Arredondo 2005, Laden 2000).

One program that has been identified as effectively preparing urms for doctoral studies is the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program (Girves, Zepeda and Gwathmey 2005). Programmatic features, including faculty mentoring and academic preparation, have been shown to mitigate many of the obstacles that urms encounter (Fiirsch et al. 2012). In this paper, we demonstrate the contributions of faculty mentoring and academic preparation in helping urm students transition from baccalaureate to stem graduate programs at one Research I university in the southeastern United States.

BACKGROUND

The Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program (McNair Scholars Program) is a highly competitive U.S. Department of Education-funded program designed to prepare university juniors and seniors who are low income, first generation, and underrepresented in graduate education for successful completion of doctoral degrees in stem disciplines. Through a selective grant competition, funds are awarded to higher education institutions for the purpose of engaging students in research and scholarly activities. In zoio, McNair Scholars Programs were funded on approximately zoo u.s. college and university campuses at a total cost of $4.3 million (Ishiyama and Hopkins Z003, U.S. Department of Education Z013).

The McNair Scholars Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor the memory of Dr. Ronald McNair, a nationally renowned scientist and researcher in the field of laser physics. …

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