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02/14/2014 12:15:02

Caltech Joins Alliance to Boost Minority Representation in STEM Fields

Caltech is one of four California universities that have founded a new consortium—the California Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate—to support underrepresented minority graduate students in the STEM fields of mathematics, the physical sciences, computer science, and engineering. Led by UC Berkeley, and including UCLA, Stanford University, and Caltech, the alliance was created to address the fact that minority students enter STEM fields in disproportionately low numbers and that as a group their progress slows at each step in their academic careers.

The California Alliance is being launched through a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Its goals are to create a community of underrepresented minority PhD students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty members across the four institutions; to provide faculty training to help minority students thrive and advance in their careers; and to conduct research to determine the factors that impact these students' attitudes, expectations, and preparation for the future.

As the nation's most populous and ethnically diverse state, California is poised to take a leading role in ensuring minority representation in the fields covered by the California Alliance. The four schools participating in the California Alliance produce almost 10 percent of the nation's underrepresented minority PhDs in these targeted science and engineering fields. But as Joseph Shepherd, Dean of Graduate Studies and the C. L. Kelly Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering at Caltech points out, these four universities often compete with one another for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members, "so it's important that we have united to address ethnic underrepresentation in these STEM fields. The California Alliance brings together an extremely rich source of talent, brainpower, and resources. Together we can provide a model of best practices for moving talented STEM students into the professoriate and the workforce."

Written by Cynthia Eller