Texas A&M University is the recipient of National Science Foundation funding leading the TAMU System-wide alliance that will increase the number of underrepresented graduate students transitioning to faculty positions in energy and sustainability. The alliance also includes four, PhD-granting institutions in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (Prairie View A&M University, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M-Kingsville, and West Texas A&M University) and six additional collaborating institutions (Tarleton State University, Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas A&M–San Antonio, Texas A&M –Texarkana, Texas A&M–Commerce, and Texas A&M University- Central Texas). The Alliance has been awarded approximately $1.2 million over 42 months by the NSF Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program to open multiple pathways to the doctorate and professoriate for underrepresented minority (URM) populations that have been historically underserved, geographically isolated, and place bound by successfully developing and sustaining large-scale, distributed STEM communities and cultures that promote access and success.
The NSF funding will allow the Alliance to operate as one cohesive unit to: 1) develop a robust cyber-enabled social and virtual infrastructure; 2) use existing Texas A&M University System Graduate Faculty infrastructure to allow graduate faculty at one TAMU System university to participate on the graduate committee and act as co-advisor for students at another System university; 3) use existing TAMUS administrative structures and communication technologies to coordinate AGEP activities with local STEM efforts and strategize on institutionalization of successful AGEP activities; 4) leverage existing Texas A&M System Pathways to the Doctorate program to facilitate fellowships among AGEP students and promote collaborative research of colleagues across the TAMUS; and 5) develop a multi-level, highly engaged mentoring structure..
Execution of these approaches will generate: 1) a replicable, transportable, and evidence-based model for sustainable strategies to remove barriers to participation and success of STEM URM doctoral students on their path to the professoriate; 2) infrastructure integrating TAMUS activities that will enable the future expansion of this model to additional interdisciplinary themes, thus expanding the impact of this approach; and 3) multiple paths to academic careers for URM STEM students by them obtaining the skills needed for academic positions in research-intensive as well as teaching-intensive universities, depending on their preference.
The TAMUS-AGEP program will also include a social science component. Dr. Adrienne Carter-Sowell, Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Africana Studies, will lead the Social Science research project. The core research question, examined through four hypotheses, is if and how URM STEM graduate students experience their campuses’ climates differently in terms of feelings of inclusion verses isolation, than their majority status colleagues, and how this impacts commitment, persistence and success along the path to the professoriate. The results of this research will inform the Alliance’s efforts to identify and address key factors that affect success of URM STEM graduate students and their advancement to the professoriate in various institutional settings.
This NSF-funded AGEP program includes a directive as stated in NSF 12-554 (http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2012/nsf12554/nsf12554.htm) that the program “must focus on underrepresented minority, U.S. citizens in STEM graduate education, and/or postdoctoral training, and their preparation for academic STEM careers at all types of institutions of higher education.” The National Science Foundation’s AGEP program is committed to the national goal of increasing the numbers of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders (URMs), including URMs with disabilities entering and completing graduate education and postdoctoral training to levels representative of the available pool of URMs. For more information regarding the TAMUS-AGEP program, please log onto http://agep.tamus.edu/.