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Research 
News On 
Graduate 
Education 

Volume 2
Number 2
April 2000

In this issue:

Are Minority Graduates with Recently Acquired Science and Engineering Degrees Continuing their Education after Graduation?

My Vision of an AGEP Community

An Interview with Dr. Hector Flores

From Their Voices: American Indians In 
Higher Education And The Phenomenon Of Stepping Out

Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology Retention Database

A Profile of an AGEP Institution: University of Florida

From the editors
 

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

Making Strides is a free, 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 in the fields of science, mathematics, and engineering. It is available in print and electronic format. Inquiries, information related to AGEP, and all correspondence should be sent to the editor. 

A Profile of an AGEP Institution: 
University of Florida

Introduction

The University of Florida is the oldest university in the Florida State University System and ranks among the top ten state universities in terms of the number of National Merit and Merit Achievement Scholars in attendance.  In 1996, the University was ranked 14th in terms of the total number of doctorates awarded.  Along with Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota, UF offers more academic programs on a single campus than any of the nation's other universities, so the opportunities for work at the doctoral level in science and engineering are many.  The University offers science, mathematics and engineering doctoral students the opportunity to work in major interdisciplinary research facilities, including the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, the Brain Institute, the Engineering Research Center for Particle Science and Technology (ERC), and the Biotechnology Program.

The University of Florida has recently committed to an ambitious plan to increase the participation of students in graduate level education at UF.  The goal is to increase the percentage of graduate students to correspond to the high quality of UF faculty research programs and the substantial and growing level of externally funded research.  UF recognizes it must ensure that these educational opportunities are available to a diversity of students and the NSF Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate is an important component of this overall plan. 

The University of Florida has made a long-term commitment to diversity.  Over the last 5 years, the percentage of African American and Hispanic students awarded PhD degrees at UF has generally exceeded national averages.  The University of Florida was recently recognized by the Quality Education for Minorities Network as a leading producer of minority Ph.D.ís in mathematics, computer science, physical science, and engineering. 

Florida A&M alumus Johnny Davis, is one of the first UF Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate Scholars.  He has begun his PhD program in the Microbiology and Cell Science Department.

Florida A & M University (FAMU) is a historically Black 1890 Land Grant institution located in Tallahassee. A major FAMU focus is the recruitment of talented students for careers in engineering, mathematics, and the sciences to address critical manpower needs in the twenty-first century.  Some 30% of the students at the University are enrolled in programs in the physical, biological, and health sciences; mathematics; computer sciences; agriculture; and engineering. As a result of aggressive recruitment activities, the size of the freshman class has increased from 704 students in 1985 to more than 2,000 in 1997. 

The NSF Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate program couples the major graduate research university in Florida with the undergraduate institution that produces the highest number of minority undergraduate science and engineering baccalaureate degrees in the state.   These two institutions have a proven track record of successful collaborations.   A valuable expansion to the program underway is the engagement of all of the schools participating in the Louis Stokes Florida-Georgia Alliance for Minority Participation (FGLSAMP) in the program.  The FGLSAMP project represents 13 institutions across Florida and Georgia and is currently preparing a large number of science, engineering and mathematics (SEM) undergraduate students. This expansion will allow the program to have an even broader impact.

The Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate Program

The NSF program established by UF and FAMU builds on the strengths of past programs and extends these efforts through the development of a long-term, professional development program with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of minority faculty in science and engineering.  This plan is complementary to many other efforts underway but is the first to combine all stages by making connections with students early in their undergraduate careers, recruiting, providing transition assistance, offering retention support, and providing critical professional development skills all in one comprehensive program. 

This program identifies program participants in the Spring semester of the sophomore year. Students who are chosen to participate in the program attend a workshop on the University of Florida campus.  During the workshop they participate in laboratory tours, seminars on practical issues involved in preparing for graduate school, and meetings with department representatives and graduate students to discuss other areas of interest.

The purposes of this initial visit are many.  Relationships between minority students and faculty are related to retention.  Initiating these connections early in the studentís academic career will facilitate these personal contacts.  Additionally, students need practical information on admissions requirements, as lack of adequate preparation is an obstacle to graduate school.  Guidance at this stage addresses this potential obstacle.  By meeting with departmental representatives before the junior year, students become aware of what prerequisites are required by the department of their choice to ensure that they take courses required to meet their career goals.  Also, contact with minority graduate students enrolled in Ph.D. programs at UF provide role models for these students. 

Students participate in research experiences at FAMU to provide them with accomplishments to instill self-efficacy in the area of science and/or engineering research, so important to career choice.  In the summer between the Junior and Senior years, students participate in a 10-week research experience on the UF campus.  During this program, students participate in a seminar series, industry tours, and communication workshops.  Seminars include student panels discussing topics including what to expect from graduate school, how to chose a graduate program, and how to apply.  At the conclusion of the program, students turn in a research paper and make an oral presentation to help them improve their oral and written communications skills.

Students are assisted with the UF admissions process and admitted students are supported on a fellowship the first year to allow them to concentrate solely on their academic program.  The first AGEP class of 6 students began programs in Materials Science and Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Microbiology and Cell Science.  To facilitate the transition to graduate school, during the summer following acceptance into the Graduate School at UF, students participate in a 6-week orientation semester, modeled after the Board of Regents Summer Program which has been offered to new African American graduate students at UF.  During this semester, students participate in research work with their faculty advisor, attend practical seminars designed to facilitate the transition to the UF campus, and enroll in one academic course in their department.  Students are encouraged to form study groups and supportive relationships with the other members of their cohort.  Beginning in this semester, and continuing throughout the entire stay at UF, participants attend regularly scheduled meetings with program managers in order to monitor student progress and foster a community feeling among group members. 

Some of the non-research responsibilities of a faculty position include teaching graduate, undergraduate, and professional courses; getting financial support for research and graduate students; publishing research articles and textbooks; directing graduate research; mentoring and advising both undergraduate and graduate students; and participating in academic, administrative, and service responsibilities.  To provide these students with the skills they will need as faculty members, the students will participate as TAís during their second year.  They will be assigned to mentor the new class of AGEP Scholars.  A studentís shift from mentee to mentor is part of the progression from graduate student to professor.  The relationship not only serves to minimize isolation, but it becomes an important part of the professional development of the students as they prepare to enter the professoriate where mentoring skills will be extremely important. 

During subsequent years, these students will receive Research Assistantships in their department.
Another program element that is included in this program is funding to ensure that each student attends at least two national professional meetings, one to a minority science and/or engineering conference and one to the broader professional society that represents their field.  The former is included to allow students to begin networking with other graduate students and to be exposed to role models in their field.  UF AGEP Scholars have attended the Compact for Faculty Diversity 1999 Institute on Teaching and Mentoring, the Quality Education for Minorities Network Conference, and the National Society of Black Engineers Conference.  In their third year, students will be expected to participate through either a presentation or poster session at a national meeting, which will continue their professional development and preparedness to enter academia.

This program is a comprehensive, stepwise process that encourages and prepares exceptional minority students for an academic career by guiding them from the undergraduate through a Ph.D. education.  Fellowships, tuition wavers, mentoring, academic support programs, teaching experience, and travel to professional meetings will result in 10 additional minority Ph.D.ís each year, as well as systemic change that will result in the continuation of the program beyond the fifth year.
 

 

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