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The seminar will briefly review the current status of underrepresented minorities in science and engineering: the underrepresentation of Black-, Hispanic-, and Native-Americans is an order of magnitude problem. We then describe the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge program as a successful model for addressing this problem. Since 2004 the program has admitted nearly 120 students, 90% of them underrepresented minorities (50% female), with a retention rate of 90%. Already, the program is the top producer of African American master's degrees in physics, and is the top producer of minority PhDs in astronomy, materials science, and physics. The seminar will summarize the main features of the program will show how misuse of the GRE in graduate admissions may by itself in large part explain the ongoing underrepresentation of minorities in PhD programs, and we describe our alternate methods to identify talented individuals most likely to succeed. We describe our mentoring model and toolkit which may be utilized to enhance the success of all PhD students.
Keivan Guadalupe Stassun, PhD, Vanderbilt University.
After earning A.B. degrees in physics and in astronomy from the University of California at Berkeley, and the Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, Stassun was a NASA Hubble postdoctoral fellow before joining the Vanderbilt faculty in 2003. From 2004 to 2015, he served as founding director of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program, through which Fisk has become the top producer of African American master’s degrees in physics and Vanderbilt has become the top producer of PhDs to underrepresented minorities in physics, astronomy, and materials science. In 2010, Stassun was invited to give expert testimony on “broadening participation in STEM” to the US House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology. In 2016 Stassun launched a new interdisciplinary research initiative at Vanderbilt entitled Big Data Visualization and the Autistic Mind.