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    The ten Lessons Learned identified in this report are intended to provide deans and faculty with a guide on how to improve the inclusion of underrepresented groups in graduate education. Our approach, involving what we have labeled a Graduate Community Convergence Initiative, has served the university well in broadening the engagement of other faculty, students, and professionals, in addition to the mentor, in the graduate experience. Often, but not exclusively, our efforts have been focused in the STEM fields and involve domestic students, women, and minorities in graduate education. At UMBC we have found that by redefining graduate education into a more supportive educational experience, we are improving the overall quality of advanced study for all students. The process of change is one that involves all units in the university that work with students, not just the graduate school or the faculty.


    While the recommendations identified are designed for any research university, they are informed by our experiences at UMBC. The catalyst for change on this campus was the impact of the successful undergraduate Meyerhoff Scholarship Program, which has provided structured support to talented students in the STEM fields. As a consequence of the success of this program, UMBC has become a leader in the production of African-American undergraduates who go on to M.D. degrees or Ph.D. programs in the STEM fields. Not only do undergraduates from UMBC go on for further study at America’s finest research universities in fields where there have been historically small numbers of individuals like them, but they excel. Dr. Michael Summers, director of UMBC’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute commented, “The Meyerhoff program [initially funded completely by the Meyerhoff family], which started out supporting only a dozen or so students, is clearly having a much broader impact. Perhaps the most exciting thing is that, at this point, we have no idea how far the effects of this program will reach. It’s like throwing a stone in a pond and watching the ripples as they extend away from the shore. The difference is that the Meyerhoff’s threw more than a stone, and the ripples are more like a tsunami, washing away misconceptions and outdated ideas and sweeping in new concepts for educating and encouraging the youth of our country.”


    We in graduate education are also involved in the wave of interest in creating an environment that is attractive for all of the nation’s best prospective students. We have increasingly become aware that to do this involves changes in the way graduate education is overseen, administered, and managed. To be more attractive, graduate education needs to become more welcoming and more supportive of its students. Even something as basic as the mentoring relationship, which is so central to graduate education, needs further attention and refinement on most university campuses. Joseph Heathcott noted that sometimes we confuse mentoring with the “master-apprentice” role so common historically in the trades. He writes, “Molding a graduate student in our own image through a period of indentured servitude does not constitute mentoring. Although our primary task is to model intellectual rigor and commitment, mentorship also includes the work that we do to nurture aspirations, accentuate native talents, impart skills, build confidence, and direct energies without crushing a set of goals that may be different from our own.” (2005, p.3).


    Improving the graduate experience, and as a consequence making graduate education more welcoming to those who have historically been underrepresented, involves undertaking a set of tasks that are achievable. Take for example, the number of African-Americans who received a Ph.D. in physics in academic year 2004. A total of 13 African-Americans received a Ph.D. out of the 1,186 doctoral physics degrees awarded—a small number and percentage indeed. The same was true for all Hispanics; a total of 13 individuals received a Ph.D. in physics. Imagine, if each physics doctoral program in the United States produced one Hispanic or one African-American per year, this dismal number of minority doctoral productions would begin to be shattered.


    These are things graduate deans can help facilitate. We can encourage an environment that is more supportive for graduate students, we can make information on admissions and recruitment more widely available, we can encourage best practices in mentoring and the management of graduate progressions, we can advocate for student support systems that are more responsive to the graduate community, and we can develop activities outside of the classroom or laboratory (across programs) that further support the educational experience, prepare for the future career, and build a viable social support network.


    Through the interventions suggested in Lessons Learned we are changing the face of graduate education and, in doing so, we are responding to the pressing national need for more domestic students, women and minority graduates in the STEM fields and improving the quality of the graduate experience for all.


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