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About AGEP 

In late October 1998, the NSF Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program  awarded eight universities nearly $2.5 million each to significantly increase the number of African American, Hispanic and Native American students receiving science, mathematics and engineering (SME) degrees.  These alliances are comprised of a network of universities, which may be either statewide or regional. One institution serves as the lead institution, and all work cooperatively to increase the number of underrepresented minority Ph.D. graduates in SME.

The original eight universities that received AGEP awards include the Georgia Institute of Technology, Howard University, University of Alabama, Birmingham, University of Florida, University of Michigan, University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Puerto Rico, and Rice University.  In FY1999, seven new AGEP alliances were funded, subsequently followed by five more awardees in FY2000 and 2001. Currently, NSF funds a total of 20 AGEP alliances. A list of all AGEP awardees can be found under AGEP Universities.

As part of this initiative, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology (CPST) received a three-year research award to explore the past and current participation of minorities in higher education and to examine those factors that tend to positively impact minority participation. The results of these efforts, as well as major research findings by higher education specialists are published in our quarterly electronic and print research newsletter, Making Strides.

Specifically, our research effort, titled In Search of Structural Reform in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Graduate Education and the Professoriate, seeks to determine the college and university policies, practices, and support services that lead to increased numbers of minority SME undergraduates that then enter into graduate school and professorial careers. By identifying and disseminating these findings, we seek to stimulate the creation of a structural approach to support minority graduate education.

Our work builds upon the ongoing research studies of AAAS and CPST in the area of SME minority graduate education, as well as upon the work of other researchers in this area. Our research design is similar to those used for Investing in Human Potential: Science and Engineering at the Crossroads (IHP) and Losing Ground: Science and Engineering Graduate Education of Black and Hispanic Americans.

AAAS conducted the IHP study in 1991 to examine the efforts, policies, and practices made by U.S. higher education institutions to increase the SME participation of women, non-Asian minorities and people with physical disabilities. The Presidents/Chancellors of 276 universities, close to 400 recruitment/retention program directors, and approximately 100 disabled student services offices were surveyed. Case studies of selected institutions were also conducted.

In 1997, AAAS surveyed 93 Research I universities and higher education institutions for Losing Ground. This study investigated recent changes in the policies and practices of research universities with respect to graduate admissions and financial aid for U.S.-citizen and permanent resident underrepresented minorities seeking to pursue science and engineering Ph.D.s. Of the 93 institutions surveyed, 76 institutions supplied usable data. Despite increasing baccalaureate production, first-year graduate education enrollments in SME declined for both African Americans and Hispanic Americans, with a precipitous one-year drop of over 20% for African Americans and a 16.2% drop for Hispanic Americans between the 1996 and 1997 academic years.

Our goal in these data gathering efforts and the subsequent reports and analyses is to facilitate a national dialogue about ways to move minority graduate education forward. In the year 2000, AAAS hosted two major events designed to further such dialogue and synthesize past and current research findings on the subject.

  1. February 24-26, 2000, AAAS staff  partnered with the EMERGE Alliance, chaired by the Georgia Institute of the Technology, and the National Science Foundation, to convene Workshop 2000:  A National Dialogue to Increase Minority Participation in SEM, in Atlanta, GA. More than 125 participants gathered to discuss ways to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in graduate education in SME. Sessions presented at this conference focused on:
  • Perspectives from major education foundations on challenges and issues for minority education programs; 
  • MGE networking highlights from MGE programs at work (in poster-session format);
  • The status of MGE what the research indicates about retention and SME departmental climate;
  • Small group discussions and breakout groups.
  1. September 18-19, 2000, AAAS hosted a study group meeting in Washington, DC with key researchers, educators and scientists who conduct research on minorities in science, mathematics and engineering (SME) at the undergraduate and graduate levels and in the SME professorial career area.   The objectives of the meeting were to:
  • Review what we know about the research on undergraduate, graduate, and faculty career experiences of underrepresented (URM) minorities in science, mathematics, and engineering (SME).
  • Identify gaps in the research base on URM minorities in SME at the undergraduate and graduate levels and in the professorial career area.
  • Recommend further research questions on minorities in SME at the undergraduate and graduate levels and in the SME professorial career area.

Our research efforts are ongoing, and we depend on the advice and assistance of our expert research consulting and dissemination teams in distributing the findings across a wide spectrum of groups and organizations and in a variety of media. 

An explanation of our logo

Over the years we have tried to convey symbolically a representation of the idea of structural reform. The triangle was introduced in the 1991 AAAS publication Investing in Human Potential as an elaboration of the notion of the evolution of program activity toward structural reform. We envisioned that projects would give way to programs and the incorporation of practices that support the achievement of all students in science, mathematics and engineering. This evolution was apparent in the many colleges and universities we visited in the IHP study and subsequently revisited as part of the more recent Losing Ground study. The results of the failure to achieve structural reform have also been made clear to us.

Two other basic ideas embedded in this symbol are: (1) the movement from the work of the individual faculty or staff member who is inspired by passion and personal commitment, to the formation of a community that cares and supports its students within a college, a department, and ultimately the entire university; and, (2) the movement from marginalized soft money efforts to support SME achievement, to the expenditure of regular hard dollars. As we make strides toward the top of this triangle, we learn from each other what works, under what circumstances, and to what end. 

If you represent a higher education institution, and are interested in applying to the AGEP program, please contact NSF directly. If you have any questions or comments about AAAS's AGEP studies or activities, or would like to inform us about successful recruitment and retention programs at the undergraduate or graduate level, please contact us:

American Association for the Advancement of Science
Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs 
Attn: AGEP Program 
1200 New York Avenue, NW 
Washington, DC 20005 
202-371-9849 (fax) 


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