NSF INCLUDES: A National Network for Access and Inclusion in Physics Graduate Education
Physics awards smaller percentages of PhDs to women (19%) and underrepresented ethnic and racial minorities (7%) than any other field in the sciences, and underrepresentation is especially pronounced at selective universities. As global competition for scientific talent heats up and US demographics shift, cultivating a robust domestic workforce is critical to US technological leadership. We seek to build on the successful American Physical Society Bridge Program (apsbridgeprogram.org) by transforming physics graduate education to fully support the inclusion of women and ethnic and racial minorities. Our vision is to create a national network of disciplinary colleagues, expert researchers, and representatives from professional associations who will develop and build evidence-based knowledge of effective practices for recruitment, admissions, and retention of women and underrepresented ethnic and racial minorities. This pilot project will include six large, highly selective physics graduate programs to demonstrate and map out a plan for a discipline-wide effort. The pilot focuses on improving admissions practices, because this strategy promises immediate and measurable impact backed by extant research. The pilot will also take exploratory steps to develop scalable recruitment and retention strategies. To refine interventions, we will conduct research to identify and understand demographically-based loss points of students in graduate physics programs and to understand how network participation facilitates change. The project will also establish connections with other STEM disciplines, beginning with mathematics and chemistry, to explore expanding these efforts.
This project is grounded in research on diversity in graduate education, organizational learning, and the resources of networks to catalyze cultural change. The project team includes expertise in institutional change, graduate admissions, student success, diverse and inclusive environments, and social science research. The pilot advances a novel research agenda on inclusion in STEM by addressing recruitment, admissions, and retention in physics graduate education as interconnected challenges of faculty learning, professional networks, and disciplinary cultural change. Physics graduate programs will report admissions data and common metrics, and will document changes resulting from project activities. Faculty will be trained on holistic admissions and diversity in selection processes, and be guided in the use of inclusive admissions practices. An external evaluator will examine project effectiveness and readiness for scaling to an Alliance phase project.
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