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The Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program: Recognizing, enlisting, and cultivating unrealized or unrecognized potential in underrepresented minority students

Vanderbilt Fisk
Type: Article
Author(s): Keivan G. Stassun, Susan Sturm, Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, Arnold Burger, David J. Ernst, and Donna Webb
Published: AAPT, 2011
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The Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program is a model for substantially increasing the number of underrepresented minority students earning doctoral degrees in the physical sciences. The program presently leads the nation in master’s degrees in physics for African-Americans, and is one of the top ten producers of physics master’s degrees among all U.S. citizens. The program is on pace to become the nation’s top producer of underrepresented minority Ph.Ds. in physics, astronomy, and materials science. We summarize the main features of the program, including two of its core strategies: Partnering a minority-serving institution and a major research university through collaborative research, and using the master’s degree as a pathway to the Ph.D. We discuss our methods for recognizing and selecting for unrealized potential in students during the admissions process, and for cultivating this potential to develop successful scientists and leaders.