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The Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program: A Model for Broadening Particip. of Underrepresented Groups in the Phys. Sciences through Effective Partnerships with Minority-Serving Institutions

Vanderbilt Fisk
Type: Article
Author(s): Keivan Guadalupe Stassun, Arnold Burger, Sheila Edwards Lange
Published: Journal of Geoscience Education, 2010
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We describe the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge program as a successful model for effective partnerships with minority-serving institutions toward significantly broadening the participation of underrepresented groups in the physical sciences. The program couples targeted recruitment with active retention strategies, and is built upon a clearly defined structure that is flexible enough to address individual student needs while maintaining clearly communicated baseline standards for student performance. A key precept of the program‟s philosophy is to eliminate passivity in student mentoring; students are deliberately groomed to successfully transition into the PhD program through active involvement in research experiences with future PhD advisers, coursework that demonstrates competency in core PhD subject areas, and frequent interactions with joint mentoring committees. This approach allows student progress and performance to be monitored and evaluated in a more holistic manner than usually afforded by limited metrics such as standardized tests. Since its inception in 2004, the program has attracted a total of 35 students, 32 of them underrepresented minorities, 60% female, with a retention rate of 91%. Recent research indicates that minority students are nearly twice as likely as non-minority students to seek a Masters degree en route to the PhD. In essence, the Bridge program described here builds upon this increasingly important pathway, with a dedicated mentoring process designed to ensure that the Masters-to-PhD transition is a successful one.