Diversity Begets More Diversity in University Science Programs Scholarship Program for Minority Doctoral Candidates Aims to Develop 400 More Minority Faculty in the US by the Year 2000

By Keith Henderson, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 17, 1995 | Go to article overview

Diversity Begets More Diversity in University Science Programs Scholarship Program for Minority Doctoral Candidates Aims to Develop 400 More Minority Faculty in the US by the Year 2000


Keith Henderson, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Gabriel Gutierrez has wanted a career in science since his days at a parochial high school in Chicago, when an advanced-placement biology course introduced him to the excitement of laboratory work.

He did well as an undergrad at Loyola University in Chicago, and his grades might have lifted him into a graduate biology program in any case. But an effort to increase the number of minority PhDs in the United States - and thus the number of black and hispanic college professors - is giving him and others an extra boost.

Mr. Gutierrez is one of three graduate students in the molecular and cell biology department of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn., who are taking advantage of the Compact for Faculty Diversity, a program sponsored by regional higher-education associations in New England, the South, and the West. In the three regions, a total of 60 doctorate students are attending public and private colleges, concentrating in the natural sciences, math, and engineering - fields where minority PhDs are especially scarce.

The aid comes in the form of a one-year fellowship that pays for the first year in graduate school, freeing them from teaching responsibilities for that year, then in the form of teaching assistantships for the final four years of doctorate work.

Special emphasis is put on helping students through the year that it ideally takes to write a dissertation, a particularly high hurdle for many would-be PhDs, says JoAnn Moody, vice president of the New England Board of Higher Education, one of the three groups spearheading the project. "So there's guaranteed financial aid all the way through," she says. Role models for students

The long-term goal is to develop 400 new minority faculty members by the turn of the century. "Minority faculty are role models for minority students; they communicate the possibility of success.... Equally important, minority faculty communicate the diversity of our society ... they verify that talent flourishes without regard to color or culture." An estimated one-third of college students will be from minority backgrounds by the year 2000, while the proportion of minority faculty is stuck at around 12 percent.

Those numbers alarm some Americans more than others. Many are concerned that efforts to give special help to minorities can boomerang into "reverse discrimination," pushing out qualified white PhD candidates. But Ms. Moody says the Compact has so far received no such criticism.

James Henkel, dean of graduate studies at the University of Connecticut, stresses that "we try very hard to make sure these people are not tokens. We fully integrate them and support them." It's critical, Mr. Henkel says, that minority graduate students merge with the academic life of a department, shouldering the same duties and meeting the same standards as other doctoral candidates. …

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