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Research News On Minority Graduate
Volume 1
Number 2

July 1999

Inside this issue:
Forty Percent of the System: The Contribution of DMOS Institutions to Diversity in Science and Engineering Graduate Education

An Interview with 
Dr. Carlos Castillo-Chavez

A Profile of an 
MGE Institution: University of

The Human Capital Liabilities of Underepresented Minorities in Pursuit of Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Doctoral Degrees

From the Editors

Hot Topic Question

Managing Editor: Yolanda S. George Editor: 
Virginia Van Horne
Art Director:
Ann Williams
Online Editor:
Maria Sosa

Making Strides is a quarterly (April, July, October, and January) research newsletter published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Directorate for Education and Human Resources Program. Its purpose is to share information about minority graduate education (MGE) in the fields of science, mathematics, and engineering. It is available in print and electronic format. Inquiries, information related to MGE, and all correspondence should be sent to the editor. 

A Profile of an MGE Institution: 
University of Michigan

By Shirley M. Malcom
Head, AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs

One can tell a lot about an institution by being present during its ritual time of celebration. At the University of Michigan in spring 1999 the sheer size of the institution was apparent just by the number of different commencements that it held, systematically pulling together the graduates and their families from public health or engineering or the Rackham School of Graduate Studies.  With a fall 1998 enrollment of 6,684 in engineering, over 6,400 graduate students and nearly 17,000 Literature, Science and Arts majors, it is not surprising that the main commencement exercises fill half of the giant Michigan Stadium which seats some 110,000 persons. 

In 1997-98 the University of Michigan received over $491 million in research expenditures, with 65% provided from federal sources.  Major research universities have major research resources.  The challenge remains one of making research resources available to as many students as possible.  In science and engineering the challenge is one of integrating research and education in ways that make it clear that doing research is integral to doing science, at any level. 

Research in undergraduate education was a topic addressed at the Jerome Weisner Symposium that University of Michigan sponsored in March 1999.  Studies  support the importance of undergraduate research participation as key motivator and predictor of minority graduate participation.  As a component of its MGE program , Michigan sponsors a Summer Research Opportunity Program at Ann Arbor to provide an eight-week research experience and provide opportunity for presentation for students from historically Black and Hispanic serving institutions.

Many non-Michigan residents might be surprised (as I was) to learn that the University owes its founding in 1817 in large part to a grant of 1,920 acres of land ceded by the Ojibwa, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Shawnee people “for a college at Detroit.”  The land was later sold and the proceeds became part of the university’s permanent endowment when it moved to Ann Arbor in 1837.

The advantages of large size, large resources and large range of program opportunities must be coupled with departments, programs, living and learning communities that “shrink the institution” to a manageable size for the students.  I met staff from various programs and colleges with responsibilities for woman and/or minorities in science and/or engineering, staff dedicated to identifying ways for the institution to identify, recruit and retain these students for SME fields.  As with a number of similarly sized and resourced public universities, the University of Michigan also faces a lawsuit challenging a number of its practices aimed at diversifying the institution’s student population.  The university has indicated its intentions to document the value of diversity to meeting its educational mission and its web site (http://www.umich.edu/~newsinfo/Admission/admiss.html) has links to information on admissions lawsuits, including the full text of a study and expert witness testimony by Professor Patricia Gurin, Interim Dean of the College of Literature, Sciences and the Arts.

Watching as each doctorate was hooded, named and marched across the stage to the cheers of family and friends one could not help but be struck by the small number of minority doctorate recipients in science and engineering fields.  And yet we are aware statistically that the university is a major contributor to the doctoral pool, ranking in 1996 as number five in Ph.D.s awarded to Blacks, number nine in awards to Latinos, and number 15 as a baccalaureate origin institution for African American doctorates .

“Eyeballing” rather than counting the number made it feel sparse; the trickle of underrepresented minority students was visible as the trickle from a talent pool that 25 to 30 years ago held out the promise for a diverse future faculty.  I make these remarks by way of observation rather than criticism since, in fact, Michigan rates high marks for effort as well as for accomplishment, producing over 4% of the total Black SME Ph.D. output in 1996, for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.  I even saw a newly minted African American Ph.D. in computer science, among the rarest of doctorates.  I then remembered Walter Massey’s AAAS Presidential address where he challenged university departments just to double their current Ph.D. output (+ one for those cases with zero current output) and wondered what would happen to this profile nationally if we just heeded his advice.

Note:  Shirley Malcom was the commencement speaker for the Rackham Graduate School and honorary doctorate recipient at the Spring 1999 University of Michigan commencement

For information on the University of Michigan’s MGE program, please visit: http://www.rackham.umich.edu/Fellowships/nsf.html

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