Two U of California campuses add STEM program for underrepresented students
- A $6.9 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will help two University of California (UC) System institutions replicate a program on their campuses developed by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) to graduate more underrepresented students in STEM fields.
- Leaders from the two universities — UC San Diego and UC Berkeley — will visit UMBC this summer to learn how it conducts its Meyerhoff Scholars Program. The mostly underrepresented participants in the program are 5.3 times more likely to go on to graduate programs in STEM than students who were invited to participate but decided to go to a different college.
- The California universities expect to have their first cohort of students in the summer of 2020, Michael Summers, a UMBC professor who is assisting with the replication effort, told Education Dive in an interview.
The Meyerhoff Scholars Program, which launched nearly three decades ago, has been critical in helping UMBC graduate and retain more underrepresented students in STEM. The program is open to applicants from all backgrounds, though it enrolls a majority of underrepresented students.
So far, the program boasts more than 1,100 alumni and has been credited, specifically, with helping the university graduate more black students who go on to earn combined M.D.-Ph.D. degrees than any other institution in the U.S. In all, program participants have gone on to earn 300 doctorates, 130 M.D. degrees, 54 combined M.D.-Ph.D.s and 253 master's degrees, according to a news release.
Moreover, UMBC ranks 10th among colleges and universities based on the number of black graduates who go on to earn science and engineering doctorates. It is the only university among the top 20 that is neither a historically black institution nor a "research university with very high research activity," according to a 2013 report from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.
The program includes a four-year merit scholarship and access to a mentor, advisers and counselors. It also requires students participate in a six-week summer bridge program and live in the same dorm their freshmen year. "We expect them to expect a lot of themselves," Keith Harmon, director of the program, told Education Dive earlier this year. "There are high expectations, but they're also highly resourced."
Successfully replicating the Meyerhoff program at the University of California System campuses could have big benefits. The system is the largest educator of underrepresented and low-income students in the Association of American Universities, according to a news release. Additionally, Silicon Valley companies hire more students out of the University of California, Berkeley than any other institution in the U.S.
At Berkeley, the replicated model will be called the STEM Scholars Program. It expects to serve between 100 and 120 students over five years.
Despite some of the University of California System's successes in this area, its campuses have a long way to go to achieve equity in STEM programs. For instance, of all the system's campuses, Hispanic and black students are the most underrepresented at Berkeley, which is also the most selective, according to The New York Times. Efforts to increase diversity have been challenged by a 1996 state ban on affirmative action.
Overall, underrepresented minorities made up just 12% of the system's STEM graduates in 2013, although that figure has grown from 9% in 2000. UC's portion of undergraduates enrolled in STEM majors who are underrepresented minorities has also grown, rising from 14% in 2006 to 23% in 2016.
Over the course of the five-year grant, UC San Diego and UC Berkeley will conduct research to assess how the program affects retention, graduation and students' career outcomes.
This isn't the first expansion of Meyerhoff program. UMBC also replicated the program at the University of North Carolina, Penn State and Howard University, according to The Baltimore Sun.
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