Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Attracting more minorities to science and to academia

Respectable scholars, studies, and focus groups have revealed a dedicated interest in increasing minority participation in the sciences and joining the professoriate. Diversity within the professional landscape is beneficial to the state of the academy and to the long-term productivity of our nation.
To address issues related to diversity or pluralism (the new buzz word for diversity) organizations and institutions have crafted statements, resolutions and re-worded policy to attract and retain talented minorities.

However, many potential scientists and scholars are loss to the academy prior to earning the baccalaureate. Several studies and anecdotal stories have reported that many minorities find science unattractive and too exclusive. Most professors are white males and there are few role models for students to point to. Additionally, bright interested students who may be academically unprepared usually change majors from science to the humanities. Of those who change career paths, many indicate that their instructors or the faculty were often indifferent to them as individuals and were unsupportive or minimally supportive to cultivating their interests in science and helping them overcome their academic hurdles.

As a result, funding organizations such as the Ford Foundation, and Southern Education Board and even the NSF Alliance to Graduate Education Program, have modeled programs designed to attract and prepare qualified minorities to the earn advanced degreed and pursue academic careers. Professoriate preparation programs such as these usually accept a group of students at a time into a program and/or track cohorts of students from several programs and institutions. Often, these students are tracked and mentored and encouraged to participate in special workshops or seminars to prepare them culturally for the demands of academia.

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