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Preparing the Next Generation of African American Computing Science Faculty: A Response to the Obama Administration’s Scientific Workforce Priorities

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  • University of Wisconsin–Whitewater

Abstract

Purpose � Recent educational initiatives by the Obama Administration have highlighted the need for more racial and ethnic diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields (The White House, 2011). While African Americans are underrepresented in faculty positions nationally, accounting for only 5.2% of all academic faculty across all disciplines (Harvey, W. B., & Anderson, E. L. (2005).Minorities in higher education: Twenty-first annual status report. Washington, DC: American Council on Education), the underrepresentation of African Americans in STEM fields such as computing science is even more severe. According to a recent Computing Research Association (CRA) Taulbee Survey, African Americans represent just 1.3% of all computing sciences faculty (CRA, 2006). Design/methodology/approach � This paper examines the benefits of one program that specifically seeks to fulfill the Obama Administration’s initiatives by addressing this disparity in higher education. Findings � The program helps prepare doctoral students for the academic job search process in an effort to increase the ranks of African American faculty in computing sciences.
The Obama Administration and Educational Reform
Preparing the Next Generation of African American Computing Science Faculty: A
Response to the Obama Administration’s Scientific Workforce Priorities
LaVar J. Charleston Jerlando F. L. Jackson Juan E. Gilbert
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To cite this document: LaVar J. Charleston Jerlando F. L. Jackson Juan E. Gilbert
. "Preparing the Next Generation of African American Computing Science Faculty: A
Response to the Obama Administration’s Scientific Workforce Priorities" In The Obama
Administration and Educational Reform. Published online: 01 Dec 2014; 205-222.
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PREPARING THE NEXT
GENERATION OF AFRICAN
AMERICAN COMPUTING SCIENCE
FACULTY: A RESPONSE TO THE
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S
SCIENTIFIC WORKFORCE
PRIORITIES
LaVar J. Charleston, Jerlando F. L. Jackson and
Juan E. Gilbert
ABSTRACT
Purpose Recent educational initiatives by the Obama Administration
have highlighted the need for more racial and ethnic diversity in Science,
Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields (The White
House, 2011). While African Americans are underrepresented in faculty
positions nationally, accounting for only 5.2% of all academic faculty
across all disciplines (Harvey, W. B., & Anderson, E. L. (2005). Minorities
in higher education: Twenty-first annual status report. Washington,
The Obama Administration and Educational Reform
Advances in Education in Diverse Communities: Research, Policy and Praxis, Volume 10, 205222
Copyright r 2014 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 1479-358X/doi:
10.1108/S1479-358X20130000010010
205
Downloaded by Doctor LaVar Charleston At 07:48 09 December 2014 (PT)
DC: American Council on Education), the underrepresentation of African
Americans in STEM fields such as computing science is even more severe.
According to a recent Computing Research Association (CRA) Taulbee
Survey, African Americans represent just 1.3% of all computing sciences
faculty (CRA, 2006).
Design/methodology/approach This paper examines the benefits of
one program that specifically seeks to fulfill the Obama Administration’s
initiatives by addressing this disparity in higher education.
Findings The program helps prepare doctor al students for the aca-
demic job search process in an effo rt to increase the ranks of African
American faculty in computing sciences.
Keywords: STEM education; computer science; faculty preparation;
mentoring; intervention; graduate education
Most leader s in higher education on both the academic and administrative
side attain a doctoral degree at some point in their careers (
Greer-Williams,
2007; Wellington, Bathmaker, McCulloch, Hun t, & Sikes, 2005). Despite
the growing number of students obtaining PhDs, doctoral-granting institu-
tions within the U.S. struggle to foster a diverse group of students and
faculty members, particularly within Science, Technology, Engineering, and
Mathematics (STEM) fields including computing sciences (Greer-Williams,
2007; Jackson, Gilbert, Charleston, & Gosha, 2009; Martinez & Agui rre,
2003). Given that the U.S. Census Bureau (2008) predicts that racial and
ethnic minorities will make up over half of the U.S. population by the year
2050, diversifying STEM fields along racial and ethnic lines is necessary for
the United States to remain competitive in an increasingly global economy.
Diversification will enable current STEM workers to be more successful
within this global workforce (M useus, Palmer, Davis, & Maramba, 2011).
The increasing reliance on technology within the global economy, combined
with the need for diverse individuals pursuing research in STEM- and com-
puting sciences-related fields, has creat ed a demand for increased recruit-
ment of underrepresented populations to the field. Likewise, efforts are
needed to ensure that such recruits are adequately prepared to effectively
instruct and usher in subseq uent generations of computing sciences-related
practitioners (Gilbert & Jackson, 2007; Jackson, Charleston, George, &
Gilbert, 2012; Maton, Hrabowski, & Schmitt, 2000; Moore, 2006).
The imperative of increasing racial and ethnic diversity in STEM fields
has been addressed in recent government initiatives. The “Educate to
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Innovate” campaign launched by the Obama Administration includes
support for publicprivate partnerships that will serve to increase the
quality of math and science education for all students. President Obama
acknowledged high quality teaching in math and science as the most
important factor in the success of students in STEM fields. In the same
statement the President stressed the importance of engaging underrepre-
sented groups in STEM fields (
President Obama expands “Educate to
Innovate” campaign for excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering,
and Mathematics (STEM) Education, 2010). In a 2011 report concerning
the president’s agenda and the African American community, STEM-
specific subject achievement was identifi ed as a top priority for states
and systemic reforms were urged including more rigorous math and
science curriculum. This “Race to the Top” challenge to the states
included emphasis on increasing opportunities for underrepre sented stu-
dents in STEM fields ( The White House, 2011). In July 2012, President
Obama issued an Executive Order to establish the White House Initiative
on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Among the various tar-
get areas identified as priorities in this initiative, increasing opportunities
for STEM education and career advancement were explicitly mentioned
(Executive Order, 2012).
STEM COMPETENCY IS AN EDUCATIONAL
PIPELINE CONCERN
If we want American to stay on the cutting edge, we need young Americans like you to
master the tools and technology that will change the way we do just about
everything No one’s born a computer scientist. But with a little hard work, and
some math and science, just about anyone can become one. (President Barack Obama,
as cited by
Williams, 2013)
Despite government efforts attempting to increase educational equity for
African Americans, the disparities within STEM fields persist (
Maton
et al., 2000) and are particularly evident within the field of computer
science. Research indicates that these disparities can be explained by a lack
of adequate K-12 education that fosters interest, encouragement, and pre-
paration for African American students (Margolis, Estrella, Go ode,
Holme, & Nao, 2008). For example, African American fourth graders have
the lowest levels of math performance of any racial group (Museus et al.,
2011). Additionally, these disparities continue throughout the K-12 experi-
ence. Of the 30,000 high school students who took the nationa l Computer
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Science Advanced Placement Exam in 2013, only 3% were African
American. Likewise, there were 11 states where no African American
students took the exam, including Mississippi, where over a third of the
population is African American (DeRuy, 2014).
The U.S. failure to effectively educate and attract divers e youth into
computer science is evident in OECD (Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Devel opment) educational assessments that illustrate
American youth lagging in reading and math scores. These disparities per-
sist into higher education, whereby the rates of completion of STEM
degrees are lower for African Americans than for students in other racial
group (
Museus et al., 2011). In addition to low completion rates, African
Americans are significantly underrepresented in computing sciences, and
are an untapped pool for intervention programs designed to increase
participation among students and faculty within the field (Charleston,
2012). In order to effectively address this underrepresentation, exceptional
mentorship is among the most salient factors for preparing African
Americans for careers in computing sciences. Though several disciplines
have researched the benefits and rewards of mentoring African Americans,
the most notable are busines s and education (e.g., Davidson & Foster-
Johnson, 2001; Dreher & Cox, 1996; Green-Powell, 2007 ; Levinson, 1978;
Thomas, 1990; Zey, 1984), leaving a broad vacancy wi th regard to research
on mentorship and preparation for African Americans within STEM disci-
plines and the computing sciences in particular. Additionally, research stu-
dies (e.g., Davidson & Foster-Johnson, 2001; Green-P owell, 2007)have
acknowledged the benefits of mentormentee relationships as it relates to
improving doctoral training experiences among African American graduate
students.
Organizational research has extensively documented the importance of
mentoring in the vocational development of top-level managers in business
(
Davidson & Foster-Jo hnson, 2001; Dreher & Cox, 1996; Green-Powell,
2007). However, the literature surrounding future faculty preparation has
largely ignored the role played by graduate training and mentorship in
attainment of top-level positions in industry and in the academy. Although
recent research (e.g., Charleston, 2012; Charleston, Gilbert, Escobar, &
Jackson, 2014; Charleston & Jackson, 2011; Jackson et al., 2012) has begun
to address the mentorship and preparation needs of African Americans in
pursuit of a doctorate, a tenure-track faculty position, and/or a research
scientist position in computing sciences, these issues remain underexplored
in the literature. For that reason, this paper begins the process of addres-
sing this gap in the literature by examining the benefits of one particular
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intervention program, the Future Faculty/Research Scientist Mentoring
(FFRM) program, which was designed to assist in preparing African
Americans for faculty and research scientist roles within the computing
sciences.
RELEVANT RESEARCH
Although higher education is one of the few sectors of the U.S. economy
that has been praised for its innovative approaches to integrating cultural
diversity, African Americans unfortunately remain highly underrepresented
in doctoral programs (
Davidson & Foster-Johnson, 2001). This problem
appears even wors e when considering STEM fields in particular, and worse
still with respect to computing sciences (Charleston & Jackson, 2011;
Jackson et al., 2009). While some studies cite the high costs of graduate
education, limited financial support, and availability of more lucrative
opportunities outside of academia as reasons for the low enroll ment of
African Americans in PhD programs (e.g., Boykin, Franklin, & Yates,
1979; Brazziel, 1988), other researchers (e.g., Adams, 1992; Charleston
et al., 2014; Davidson & Foster-Johnson, 2001; Phillip, 1993) have high-
lighted the importance of mentoring relationships between graduate
students and their professors as a determinant of successful completion of
graduate programs and the career trajectories of students as professionals.
A recent qualitative study revealed that a positive mentoring relationship
helped to socialize African American students to the field of computing
sciences and contributed to degree attainment. This dynamic was especially
significant with regard to the highest levels of educa tion (i.e., PhD) as the
mentoring relationship served as a mediating factor among participants,
which made them less likely to withdraw from their doctoral programs
(Charleston, 2012). Additional studies suggest that formal and informal
mentoring relationships foster conditions for success among African
American graduate students. Davidson and Foster-Johnson (2001) assert
that mentoring relationships serve to “(a) integrate a student into the fabric
of the department, (b) cultivat e essential professional and social networks,
(c) aid students in acquiring core research competencies, and (d) pa ve the
way for placement in the workforce upon matriculation from graduate
school” (pp. 549550). Additionally, this body of research considers gradu-
ate school mentoring a pertinent responsibility of educators, administra-
tors, and researchers alike whereby mentors play a significant role in
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the aca demic and career decisions among graduate students ( Jackson et al.,
2009).
Enhancing future faculty preparation, as well as improving graduate
education, has become a significant agenda item among a wide array of sta-
keholders in higher education domestically and abro ad (
Austin et al., 2009;
Austin & Wulff, 2004; Bouwma-Gearhart, Millar, Barger, & Connolly,
2007). This renewed attention toward future facul ty preparation is evi-
denced by the growing number of conferences, institutional program s,
initiatives by professional organizations, and funded resear ch within the
last 1015 years (Austin & Wulff, 2004). Although earlier research on
faculty development posited that the start of the academic career began
with the first academic appointment, the influence of socialization theory
redirected many researchers to examine the graduate school experience as
the initial stages of faculty development (Austin, 2002; Austin & Wulff,
2004; Golde & Dore, 2001 ; Tierney & Rhoads, 1994; Weidman, Twale, &
Stein, 2001). Furthermore, the literature highlights the role of doctoral edu-
cation as socialization for faculty careers, and that effective preparation
enables student s to learn the relevant skills, knowledge, habits, attitudes,
and values of the group that the individual seeks to join (Austin, 2009;
Austin & McDaniels, 2006; Austin et al., 2009; Gillian-Daniel, 2008).
More programs and initiatives are needed if a greater number of
African American students are to be adequately cultivated for faculty posi-
tions within STEM (
Charleston et al., 2014; MacLachlan, 2006 ). Although
the number of African American doctoral degree-holders has increased
since the 1970s, this number is miniscule, particularly with respect
to STEM degrees and in comparison to the African American share of the
U.S. population generally (MacLachlan, 2006). Since 1998, African
Americans have never accounted for more than 2.0%, 1.4%, and 0.7% of
the assistant, associate, and full professors in computer science, respec-
tively. Furthermore, African Americans have never accounted for more
than 2% of the PhD graduates in computer science in a single year over
this same period (Jackson et al., 2009). The 2012 Computing Research
Association’s (CRA) Taulbee Survey reports there are 172 Black/African
American students currently enrolled in computer science PhD programs,
accounting for just 1.6% of the total number of students enrolled in these
programs. Additionally, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s)
Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and
Engineering data concluded that only five African American females
(0.028%) and 11 African American males (0.61%) achieved a PhD in com-
puter science in 2006 (National Science Foundation, 2009). In contrast,
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African Americans represent 13.6% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census
Bureau, 2010), a figure that far exceeds the proportion of African
Americans in either computer scienc e graduate programs or at any level of
the professoriate.
In light of these significant gaps, the NSF created the Broadening
Participation in Com puting (BPC) program in 2005 to increase the number
of U.S. citizens and permanent residents from traditionally underrepre -
sented groups in computing at undergraduate, graduate, and professional
levels (e.g., academic, research, or corporate). However, so far very
few research and/or evaluation results have been reported on interventions
that target African Americans in computing sciences (
Jackson et al.,
2009).
1
FUTURE FACULTY/RESEARCH SCIENTIST
MENTORING PROGRAM
Given previous findings that African Americans do not receive adequate
advice during and upon the completion of their PhD (
Davidson & Foster-
Johnson, 2001), the FFRM program was established in 2006 as a com-
ponent of the African American Researchers in Computing Sciences
(AARCS) program funded by the NSF. Prior to the FFRM program,
African American computing science PhD students did not have a formal
mechanism through which to gain knowledge about the process of obtain-
ing a faculty or research position within the field of computing science
(e.g., the search for an academic/research position, the interview process ,
or the best practices for negotiating salary). In fact, many students
who had been told that they would make “good teachers” developed
perceptions that they were sup posed to apply primarily for teaching
positions with research pursuits and research positions excluded from
their purview. Others have bolstered this claim, with one study demonstrat-
ing that among African American science and mathematics graduate
students, just 17 percent reported publishing a journal article, far less
than the proportion among other group s including Asians (49 percent),
Latinos (42 percent), and Whites (47 percent) (Nettles & Millett, 2005).
These data suggest that African American PhD students may be more
likely to be ushered into teaching rather than research positions, placin g
them at a disadvantage concerning the top positions in the field. The
FFRM program was designed to address these concerns by fully equipping
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participants with the tools they need to navigate graduate school success-
fully. Ultimately, the program aims to provide students with insigh ts and
information offering a more complet e understanding of potential career
paths and opportunities within the computing sciences.
To help facilitate the mentoring process of African American computing
science PhD students across the country, online and telephonic resources
are utilized. For example, the FFRM parti cipants exchange email on a reg-
ular basis. These email communications occur on an email listserve con-
taining students, recent graduates, and mentors. Emails are used to
communicate information about job postings, personal experiences, and
forthcoming FFRM conference calls. Conference calls are used to mentor
the students through the post-PhD job search. Additional FFRM activities
include reviewing job announcements from Communications of the ACM
(Association of Computing Machinery) and resources provided on the
Computing Research Association website, which includes pertinent infor-
mation related to open faculty and research scientist positions. With regard
to job announcements, a complete description of the announcement is
reviewed and information related to the department, institution, and people
within the department is shared. Often this information is confidential.
Additionally, conference calls detail how to organize application materials,
how to interact during conference call interviews, how to present oneself
during campus interviews, how to negotiate an offer , what questions to
ask, what to expect on campus, and many other areas related to this pro-
cess. This mentoring experienc e exposes students to unforeseen opportu-
nities that their advisors may not have shared with them.
Impact of Program on the Field to Date
Early evidence in the national data on tenure-track faculty positions in
computer science suggests that the FFRM program is having a tremendous
impact on the field of computing sciences across the nation. According to
the 2006
CRA Taulbee Survey (2006), African Americans were hired into
4.3% of the tenure-track faculty positions in computing sciences. To our
knowledge, this result constituted the first time in the history of the
Taulbee Survey that more than 2% of tenure-track faculty positions were
awarded to African Americans. In that same year, there was an 11%
decrease in the number of tenure-track faculty hires. Fifty percent (4 of 8)
of the African American new hires in 2006 were from the FFRM program.
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All of those FFRM program new hires reported that the program played a
significant role in obtaining their tenure-track faculty position.
METHOD
This paper examines the benefits of a program designed to help prepare
computer science doctoral students for obtaining jobs as university faculty
members or research scientists. The observed doctoral students were all of
African American descent and participants of the FFRM program. In an
effort to assess the effectiveness of the program, the following four ques-
tions guided this qualitative inquiry: (a) What were students’ rationale for
participating in the FFRM program; (b) What were the most beneficial
aspects of the program; (c) What were the least beneficial aspects of the
program; and (d) How prepared did students feel they were to begin their
professional careers after pa rticipating in the FFRM?
The study employed email interviews, defined as the collection of
“open-ended data through interviews from individuals using computers and
Web sites or the Internet” (
Creswell, 2002, p. 207). This approach is recom-
mended when researchers seek to collect data efficiently from a geographically
dispersed group of respondents. Accordingly, email interviews were deemed
appropriate for this study. Using Conrad’s (1982) constant comparison
method, emergent themes were analyzed after all data were submitted to a
web-based data collection site. Themes of particular interest to the researchers
were those associated with elucidating the research questions for this study.
FFRM PARTICIPANTS’ PROFILE
Background Characteristics
All 32 participants in the FFRM program pa rticipated in this study, of
whom approximately 40.6% were male and 59.4% female. The average age
of participants was 32. A majority of participants described their family’s
socioeconomic background as middle-income, dual-parent households;
none reported a socioeconomic status at the highest income level. Few par-
ticipants reported having a parent with previous involvement in computing
sciences, and with regard to parental education , participants’ mothers and
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fathers were of mixed educational attainment, with mothers having more
normally distributed outcomes.
University Involvement
A majority of the FFRM participants reported previous experiences of the
kind that traditionally lead to research-related positions in computing
sciences. For instance, 53.1% of the FFRM participants had been involved
in extracurricular activities emph asizing computing sciences. Likewise,
50.0% of the FFRM participants had been involved in an undergraduate
research program. These FFRM participants had a very high level of con-
tact with faculty by all measures.
STUDENT EXPERIENCES AS EVIDENCE OF
PROGRAM BENEFITS
The FFRM participants stated that the program provided several types of
valuable information applicable to the pursuit of faculty and research posi-
tions. The most salient examples of information acquired included: (a) how
to make best use of peer and faculty networks (e.g., obtaining inside infor-
mation about job openings, institutional climate, and departmental
dynamics and cultures); (b) strategies for effective interviewing (inclu ding
presentation); (c) how to create a cohesive application package including
best practices related to research statements, curriculum vitae, and job
talks; and (d) how to ne gotiate issues related to work load, funding, and
salary. While many participants expressed high levels of anxiety regarding
entering the job market, many felt that through the FFRM, their concerns
were assuaged and they were indeed prepared. As one participant
recounted, “The program provided me with strategies about how to ask the
right questions in order to discern information ab out funding, lab space,
reduced teaching load, and departmental temperament.” Another student
added, “The initiative provided me with strategies to do well in interviews,
application strategies on how to write research statements, CV, etc. The
shared experience of other members helped a lot.” As these statements sug-
gest, not only was the content (composition of strategy) of the FFRM ben-
eficial to the participants, but the cohort model fostered a level of shared
community that the participants valued. This aspect of the FFRM program
established a “peer and faculty network.”
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Although the lack of preparation during and after graduat e school was
the most frequently cited reason participants chose to join the FFRM, par-
ticipants used a variety of descriptors to express such concerns. Most felt
that they had previously experienced inadequate advisi ng. One student
recalled feeling “very unprepared for life after graduate school with little
opportunity to have proper guidance for how to obtain any position after
graduating.” Culturally specific mentorship demonstrated by the like-ethnic
mentormentee relationship within the FFRM also proved notable; many
students said such relationships were missing throughout their graduate
experiences. One participant explained, “The support of people ‘like me’
was important. Navigating in academia often means more is left unspoken
than is made explicit. The group helped me interpret my progress.” On the
other hand, some participants were recommended by their advisors in an
effort to gain additional support. One student posited, “It was great to
have someone other than my advisor give me advice and connect to people
outside my small network.” Such assessments of the program indicate that
one of the ways in which the FFRM was most beneficial to participants
was through the intangible support the program provided in the form of
social bonds.
Additionally, many participants spoke of obtaining concrete and specific
information they found useful in the course of their job search and applica-
tion process a benefit many said was key to their decision to participate
in the FFRM program. These benefits ranged from broad descriptions such
as how the program “increased my confidence” to more personal and parti-
cular accounts such as, “It provided specific contacts that ‘fast-tracked’ my
application. Many of my peers have had no responses from schools.
However, I was invited to give 3 talks, 2 as a result of program contacts.”
Participants also expressed appreciation for the program’s focus on job/
institutional fit and personal preparation. One student shared, “Given what
I learned from the program, I did a lot of soul searching about what it was
I really wanted and what preparation I needed in order to get it. I turned
down an offer from _______ because I couldn’t see myself being there.”
Another expressed a similar sentiment: “The program helped me hone my
target institution list. The atmosphere of some computer science depart-
ments is not conducive to people of color so I was able to re-evaluate my
choice in applying at the institution.”
This program also proved beneficial to participants because it drew
the attention of various institutions and departments themselves seeking
qualified applicants. One participant recounted, “This program has bene-
fited from Universities posting their jobs in our conference as well as
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current facul ty members apprising the group of opportunities at their
schools.”
Overall, participants overwhelmingly reported that the FFRM program
provided them with valuable insights into the interviewing and hiring pro-
cess, enabling them to be better prepared for the job market whether they
sought a faculty or research scientist position.
CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS
In line with prior research (e.g., Austin, 2002; Austin et al., 2009; Austin &
Wulff, 2004; Golde & Dore, 2001; Tierney & Rhoads, 1994; Weidman
et al., 2001), this paper underlines the importance of socialization as an
integral component of a successful doctoral education. Socialization was
central to the effectiveness of the FFRM program. Computing scienc es in
particular, a field with anomalously low pa rticipation rates among African
Americans, stands to benefit from the development of programs designed
to help socialize people of color to fill faculty and research scientist
positions.
Programs like FFRM directly respond to recent educational initiatives
put forth by the Obama Administration, which has made such programs
an urgent national priority. Campaigns such as “Educate to Innovate”
and “Race to the Top,” and the establishment of the White House
Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, illustrate the
government’s recognition of the need to improve the quality of STEM
teaching and to broaden participation among racial and ethnic minorities
within STEM fields. There is little doubt about the Administration’s com-
mitment to supporting such efforts. Given these priorities, the govern-
ment has a continued responsibility to commit resources and atte ntion to
efforts that will increase racial and ethnic diversity in STEM fields. This
includes increasing grant funding for researchers whose efforts serve to
advance underrepresented groups in STEM fields and continuing to
prioritize high quality training for math and science teachers at all levels
of education. In addition, the government can support tax breaks for
STEM-related companies that are actively working to diversify their
workforce. Government should promote media campaigns that highlight
the need for more scientists of color. In addition to providing a more
mainstream understanding about the issue, such efforts will also increase
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visibility of underrepresented groups and communicate that careers in
STEM fields are indeed attainable.
Given nationa l efforts to increase the participation of underrepresented
populations in the field of computing sciences, the FFRM program pro-
motes this endeavor both directly and indirectly. Directly, the program
assists African American computer science aspirants in their pursuit of
tenure-track facul ty and research scientist positions. As detailed in this
paper, these goals were met by facilitating the development of mentoring
relationships of African American PhD-level computing science students
across the country through electronic correspondence, conference calls,
conference meetings, and one-on-one meetings. Indirectly, increasing parti-
cipation of underrepresented populations in computing sciences may be
advanced long term as participants of the FFRM program attain positions
as faculty and researchers, heightening the visibility of prominent African
American STEM scholars. This achievement will benefit future computing
science aspirants as they pursue and seek to persist through graduate
school and achieve success in the ranks of tenure-track faculty and research
scientists.
Typically, future faculty preparation programs are evaluated at the insti-
tutional level with the bulk of responsibility for faculty preparation placed
on individual departments and institutions. The FFR M program serves as
an innovative model of mentorship in part because it is not confined to a
specific institution. That said, this model would not replace the importance
of faculty mentorship within the institution; it should be used in concert
with traditional institution-based and departmental mentoring. However,
in fields in which underrepresentation is common (e.g., STEM fields and
computing science), the FFRM program helps to bring individuals together
who might otherwise be disconnected, creating a valuable network of peers
and scholars of like-ethnic background and like career and academic goals.
This shared community, although geographically dispersed, offers program
participants access to the “missing pieces” of their graduate education and
the tools they need to reach their academic and career goals and interests.
One of the benefits of the FFRM program is the presence of same-race
(African American) mentors an d advisors. This culturally specific mentor-
ship benefitted participants as they were able to more quickly forge trusting
connections with program facilitators. While this aspect of the program
was intentional and effective, it may present logistical hurdles were
the program to be expanded more broadly (e.g., not necessarily African
American mentors and/or students). More plainly, the community-building,
217Response to Obama Administration’s Scientific Workforce Priorities
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information-sharing, and one-on-one mentorship relationships that devel-
oped electronically through the FFRM program could be replicated with
other programs aimed at broadening participation; however, with limited
existing research concerning cross-race mentorship relationships in STEM
fields, our findings about the benefits of same-race mentorship may not
necessarily apply to these other types of relationships.
This study and others (e.g.,
Austin et al., 2009) emphasize the role of
socialization in effectively preparing individuals for faculty positions in
STEM fields. As participants in STEM and computing science, in particu-
lar, are currently in high demand, improving socialization efforts among
scholars in training will create stronger instructors, mentors, and research-
ers. These socialization efforts address the system as a whole: future faculty
and researchers must be exposed to what it takes to be successful in their
personal careers, but also they must develop as guardians of the next
generation of faculty and researchers. The components of the FFRM pro-
gram, if applied more broadly, are especially promising in that the target
population, doctoral students in computing science and other STEM fields,
is not confined to a single geographic locat ion.
The FFRM model is easily transferable to other programs with similar
aims. One example is the emerging program Institute for African-American
Mentoring in Computer Science (iAAM CS, pronounced “I am C.S.”)
(
Charleston et al., 2014). This institute builds and expands upon the key
components of the FFR M program by incorporating aspects of mentoring
into all activities and programmatic initiatives. The iAAMCS program will
provide mentoring support for African American undergraduate students
in computing sciences. This support at the undergraduate level will help to
increase the number of talented African American students in the field who
will continue on to graduate school (Charleston et al., 2014).
As far as we have been able to establish, the FFRM program represents
the first distance/virtual mentorship program targeted to increase African
American computing scientists in tenure-track facul ty and researcher posi-
tions. As this program has achieved success, it provides an example of the
effectiveness of distance mentoring relationships (using modern technology)
that can likewise be applied to other STEM disciplines. More plainl y,
African Americans in computing sciences are not the only underrepresented
group across the United States who stands to be nefit. Similar programs
built on the FFRM model might be created to build community among
other specified underrepresented populations, offering job aspirants
the advice and support they need in order to alter the ethnic make-up of
homogenous disciplines.
218 LAVAR J. CHARLESTON ET AL.
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NOTE
1. http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=13510&org=NSF&from=
fund
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Article
Full-text available
African Americans represent 1.3% of all computing sciences faculty in PhD-granting departments, underscoring the severe underrepresentation of Black/African American tenure-track faculty in computing (CRA, 2012). The Future Faculty/Research Scientist Mentoring (FFRM) program, funded by the National Science Foundation, was found to be an effective strategy in increasing the number of tenure track faculty hires by 11% (Charleston & Jackson, 2011). This manuscript describes a new program, the lnstitute for African American Mentoring in Computer Sciences (iAAMCS), which capitalizes on the successes of the FFRM and other mentoring models. The iAAMCS endeavors to improve faculty representation through a national mentoring model.
Article
This paper describes and assesses the effectiveness of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). The Program is designed to increase the number of underrepresented minorities who pursue graduate and professional degrees in science and engineering. Until 1996 the program admitted African American students exclusively and the current study focuses only on students from that,group. The Meyerhoff students have achieved higher grade point averages, graduated in science and engineering at higher rates, and gained admittance to graduate schools at higher rates than multiple current and historical comparison samples. Student survey and interview data revealed that a number of program components were viewed as being especially important contributors to students' academic success: Program Community, Study Groups, Summer Bridge Program, Financial Support, Program Staff, and Research Internships and Mentors. (C) 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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