Engaging a more diverse population in STEM fields is a national priority, as research has shown that scientific research benefits from having multiple perspectives shaped by different life experiences. This diversity of thought and experience helps address the most challenging scientific programs facing society today. However, certain students from racial and ethnic minority groups continue to be underrepresented in STEM disciplines – and even more so in STEM graduate programs.
To help address this priority, Boise State University has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Bridge to Doctorate award to support the creation of the Pacific Northwest Graduate Fellows Program – a program dedicated to recruiting, retaining and supporting a cohort of 12 talented students from historically underrepresented minority populations, enrolled in STEM doctoral programs to successful completion of their degrees.
The long-term goal of the program is to transform the structures, mindsets, processes and programming at Boise State in a way that increases the overall representation and success of students from historically underrepresented minority populations in their completion of STEM doctorates and, ultimately, in taking positions in the ranks of university faculty.
“Our receipt of this award is a sign of Boise State’s commitment to creating more equitable and inclusive opportunities in graduate education. The fact that we’re the first member of the Pacific Northwest LSAMP Alliance – which includes the University of Washington, Washington State, Portland State and Oregon state – to win a BD award is an indication of our leadership position within the alliance, one that I believe we can utilize to bring value to the nine other member institutions,” said Tony Roark, principal investigator for the project, as well as interim provost of Boise State and vice president for Academic Affairs. “I’m incredibly proud of our campus BD team and look forward to getting to work.”
Students chosen for the program will receive a stipend of $32,000 annually for their critical first two years of study, followed by tuition and a fee supplement of up to $12,000 annually. Eligible students will be those who have been admitted to a Boise State STEM master’s or doctoral program for fall 2020; are U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals or permanent residents; and who participated in Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) programs as undergraduates.
The program will draw from successful national education models as well as current recommendations from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The PNW Graduate Fellows program will offer inclusive mentoring and advising to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion; it also will provide a robust set of graduate student opportunities that promote career exploration, community building, scientific communication, multidisciplinary learning opportunities, and mental and emotional well-being.
“The Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives and the Graduate College are pleased to engage in this partnership to ensure a successful experience for the graduate students who will be involved in the Bridge to the Doctorate program,” said Tammi Vacha-Haase, dean of the Graduate College. “We believe our collaborative approach will ensure that this cohort receive the support necessary to thrive while at Boise State, while also gaining the skill set required for their future to serve as leaders in their disciplines.”
In addition to Roark and Vacha-Haase, the Boise State leadership team responsible for building the Pacific Northwest Graduate Fellows Program includes Donna Llewellyn, co-PI and executive director for Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives and Catherine Bates, program director and STEM Diversity and LSAMP coordinator.