Collaborative Research: AGEP Transformation Alliance: CIRTL AGEP - Improved Academic Climate for STEM Dissertators and Postdocs to Increase Interest in Faculty Careers

Project: Research project

Project Details


If funded, Dr. Bennett B. Goldberg would serve as PI over this collaborative project that includes ten universities with Iowa State as the lead institution. Dr. Jennifer E. Hobbs would serve as the NU project Co-I, and Dr. Robert Linsenmeier would also fill a Senior Personnel role on the project.

Underrepresented graduate students regularly experience a broad range of implicit bias, microaggressions, and occasionally direct racist remarks. The cumulative effect of a negative climate in their departments and research groups creates draining challenges for underrepresented students until, often, they decide that they do not belong and thus do not seek a faculty career. Many universities (including the ten partners in this proposal) offer a broad range of programs that directly support underrepresented students and postdocs through services such as bridge programs, mentoring, and professional development. We propose a major, complementary initiative to improve the climate for underrepresented students and postdocs. The essential logic of our grant is: approximately half of underrepresented PhD students are initially interested in faculty careers. Yet in the first few years of a PhD, there is a catastrophic loss of this interest. We aim to improve the quality of advising and the research climate in our institutions through workshops on inclusion, and we will measure the impact of our interventions on the students’ sense of belonging in our STEM departments and research groups as well as on their overall commitment to a faculty career. Since the partners are all members of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning Network (CIRTL), we will disseminate our tested practices and workshops across the CIRTL universities that produce 30% of the nation’s STEM PhDs and 45% of STEM postdocs, with the long-term goal of contributing to AGEP’s objective of building a more diverse STEM faculty.

Intellectual Merit:
To tackle this complex, multifaceted social problem of inclusive climate we have formed a Networked Improvement Community of nine CIRTL universities. We will undertake planned, coordinated initiatives to improve faculty advising as well as the mentoring provided by postdocs, who spend considerable day-to-day time with graduate students. We will also develop and test initiatives on building an inclusive community amongst graduate students. Each university will use common measures to assess the effectiveness of these initiatives and will use these data in intentional cycles that improve each of these initiatives. The annual cycles of the NIC produce a set of measurements on both underrepresented students and postdocs interest in faculty careers, the climate experienced by students and postdocs, and the quality of advising. We will complement these quantitative measures with in-depth qualitative interviews to understand their sense of belonging and the factors that have impacted their career choices. At the end of these cycles, we will have a model set of initiatives for faculty advisors, postdoc mentors, and graduate student peers that been tested at nine diverse universities that strengthen underrepresented student and postdoc interest in faculty careers.

Broader Impact:
The broadest impact will be on diversity in STEM through the ongoing work of the thousands of people impacted by an inclusive climate in graduate education. Current faculty who have participated in the initiative will be more effective in advising a broader range of students. URG students with a strengthened interest in a faculty careers
Effective start/end date10/1/169/30/21


  • National Science Foundation (HRD-1647146-005)

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