Reducing the Bottleneck: Breaking the Bottle! Addressing the Recruitment of Postdocs through Best Practices of AGEP and ADVANCE Horizons Programs
At the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), two NSF funded programs, the Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) and the ADVANCE Program have led to measurable increases in the number of graduate students and faculty from underrepresented minority groups (URM) in STEM. In 2002, PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP launched Graduate Horizons, a three-day workshop that provided aspiring graduate students with panel discussions by visiting faculty of color, graduate student mentoring sessions, and visits to academic departments. Students were also provided with hands-on seminars to prepare for the GRE, write the statement of purpose, and navigate the graduate school application. Building upon the successes of Graduate Horizons, the ADVANCE Program created Faculty Horizons, a two-day summer workshop that through panel presentations, interactive workshops and discussions led by distinguished women scientists and engineers from universities, agencies and companies throughout the nation, upper-level graduate students and postdoctoral research fellows were informed about what it takes to secure a faculty position in STEM. While both Horizons programs have been recognized as national models for recruiting URM graduate students and faculty in STEM, the recruitment of postdoctoral fellows has been largely neglected. Data and experiences at conferences such as the Southern Regional Education Board’s Compact for Faculty Diversity and AWIS-ADVANCE have convinced the authors that there is a bottleneck at the postdoctoral stage in the academic career trajectory. Given global competitiveness and the establishment of the postdoctoral fellowship as an increasingly necessary qualification for a faculty position in STEM, it is imperative that we also empower upper-level PhD students with the tools and knowledge needed to find postdoctoral opportunities during this critical time of transition. UMBC has taken the initiative by opening an Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and funding the Postdoctoral Fellowship for Faculty Diversity, but more work remains to be done. In this paper we will share best practices from both Horizons programs to offer insights on breaking through bottlenecks that have traditionally limited appointments of URM STEM postdoctoral fellows.