Fall 2013


The Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program: A Model for Dramatically Increasing Diversity at the PhD Level in Science and Engineering
Speaker: Keivan Guadalupe Stassun (Vanderbilt University, Fisk University
When: December 6, 12-1:15 pm

This talk focused on the current status of underrepresented minorities in science and engineering as an order of magnitude problem. He will then describe the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge program as a successful model for addressing this problem. Since 2004 the program has admitted 67 students, 61 of them underrepresented minorities (55% female), with a retention rate of 92%. Already, the program is the top producer of African American master's degrees in physics, and is the top producer of minority PhDs in astronomy, materials science, and physics. We summarize the main features of the program including its core strategies: (1) discarding the GRE in favor of indicators that are not biased against women and minorities, (2) partnering with a minority-serving institution for student training through collaborative research, and (3) using the master’s degree as a deliberate stepping stone to the PhD. We show how misuse of the GRE in graduate admissions may by itself in large part explain the ongoing underrepresentation of minorities in PhD programs, and we describe our alternate methods and tools to identify talented individuals most likely to succeed. We describe our mentoring model which may be utilized to enhance the success of all PhD students, and share a suite of tools for student mentoring, monitoring, and training.