Intellectual Entrepreneurship and Diversity; to Increase Minority Participation, Graduate Education Programs Must Be Made Transparent Aria Have Greater Social Relevance

By Cherwitz, Richard | University Business, July 2005 | Go to article overview

Intellectual Entrepreneurship and Diversity; to Increase Minority Participation, Graduate Education Programs Must Be Made Transparent Aria Have Greater Social Relevance


Cherwitz, Richard, University Business


A STUDY BY THE WOODROW WILSON NATIONAL FELLOWSHIP Foundation indicates that African Americans and Hispanics are still significantly underrepresented among recipients of Ph.D.s. The two groups comprise 32 percent of all U.S. citizens in the age range of Ph.D. candidates but only 7 percent of those earning doctorates.

Most disturbing about this data is the obvious implication: without more persons of color earning advanced degrees, there

will remain an inadequate supply of underrepresented minority faculty (who at present comprise a woeful 7 percent of full-time faculty at public doctoral institutions), perpetuating a Lack of diversity across college campuses. To say we are caught in a vicious cycle is a gross understatement.

It is tempting to blame the insufficient production of minority Ph.D.s on the admissions process and a tack of financial support. White these variables do indeed contribute to the problem, an unspoken culprit is the insubstantial minority applicant pool

At the University of Texas at Austin--one of the nation's Largest graduate schools and Leading producers of Ph.D.s--the applicant pool for programs in the arts and sciences is characterized by a paltry number of underrepresented minorities. In 2003 (the same year examined by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation), only 6.3 percent of the 18,000-plus applicants to UT's graduate school were Hispanic, African American, or Native American.

While factoring race and ethnicity into the criteria considered for admission and for awarding scholarships and fellowships will certainly help, no profound increase in diversity will occur until significant progress is made in persuading talented minorities to pursue graduate study. Nationally, top-notch graduate institutions play numbers games, competing with each other to redistribute an already undersized minority applicant population.

Why do talented minority students choose not to pursue traditional graduate degrees? Many prefer instead to enter law, medicine, or business, not only because of money and prestige but also awareness of the societal impact of these pursuits. First-generation students or those from minority communities may perceive withdrawal from the rough-and-tumble of everyday problems as dereliction. These students are bright and capable of learning at the highest levels, yet feel the tug of social responsibility.

Ironically, graduate education need not be viewed as an insular enterprise devoid of social relevance. UT's "Intellectual Entrepreneurship" (IE) is a new vision of education that challenges students to be "citizen-scholars." By engaging students in community projects where they discover and put knowledge to work, as well as adapting to audiences for whom their research matters, IE documents the enormous value to society of graduate study. …

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