Blog: Latino Ed Beat

California Universities Unite to Increase Minority PhDs

Four elite California research universities are pooling their resources to increase the number of Latino and black students earning PhDs in fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The California Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley, and the University of California, Los Angeles have pledged to work together to increase the number of underrepresented minorities earning doctorates in STEM-related fields. In turn, the universities hope to also increase the number of minority faculty members in those fields.

The so-called California Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate has received a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the fields.

According to the universities, they graduate 10 percent of the underrepresented minority PhDs in the fields.

“Sometimes it’s good instead of competing to collaborate and share ideas and practices and create a sense among underrepresented students that they are part of something a little bigger than their own institution,” UC Berkeley executive dean of the College of Letters and Sciences Mark Richards told the Los Angeles Times.

According to a UCLA news release, in 2011 the four universities awarded 753 doctorates in the targeted fields. Only 59 of those PhDs went to minority students.

The initiative will include networking for minority students at all the universities, including retreats. Faculty will also be trained on working with such students. Students will also be able to develop relationships with faculty at universities outside of where they are studying for their degrees. Students will also be surveyed annually about their experiences.

UCLA Associate Dean Carlos Grijalva, who is Hispanic, said in a news release that minority students “are highly influenced by whether their department has a critical mass of people that are similar to themselves.”