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Enhancing Diversity in Training Programs

Institutional training programs are required to demonstrate successful efforts to recruit and retain an outstanding and diverse trainee population, including students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups and students with disabilities.

The Institutional Training Grant (T32) announcement calls for a "Recruitment and Retention Plan to Enhance Diversity" and specifies groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences to include:  A) individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups shown to be underrepresented nationally (see data at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/showpub.cfm?TopID=2&SubID=27 Link to external Web site and the report Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering Link to external Web site) defined as Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders and  B) individuals with disabilities, defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. See http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-15-053.html for more details. Institutions are encouraged to identify candidates who will increase diversity on a national basis. Note that training grant programs supporting only graduate-level students and/or postdoctoral fellows are not required to address disadvantaged individuals in their Recruitment and Retention Plan.

Following are suggested approaches for the recruitment and retention of students and fellows in categories A and B.

A. Strategies and Resources for Recruitment and Retention of Students and Fellows from Underrepresented Racial and Ethnic Groups

NIGMS places continued emphasis on the recruitment, retention and graduation of individuals from underrepresented groups. Successful recruitment of underrepresented students and fellows requires active involvement of the program director, the training grant faculty and institutional officials. Some approaches that have been used by NIGMS training grant programs are presented below.

From the Outset

  • Design recruitment activities uniquely appropriate for the program. Consider the scientific area of the training program, the size and location of the campus, the mentoring style of the program's faculty and the student recruitment system of your parent institution as you design your recruitment plan.
  • Consider recruiting at institutions with substantial enrollment of underrepresented students with appropriate undergraduate training. Visit these schools to publicize graduate training opportunities. Visit these schools to publicize graduate training opportunities. Visits by training grant program directors, faculty and students are key. Faculty invited to give seminars at other schools have asked their hosts to set up discussions with underrepresented undergraduate students.
  • Evaluate the admissions process, especially its early phases. Consider whether criteria or practices are unnecessarily screening out qualified candidates. Increase the use and weight of the interview, letters of recommendation and research experience versus numerical credentials.
  • Consider institutional assets. Review student advising and diversity offices on campus, interest and affinity groups, local chapters of professional organizations, faculty role models, champions, and peers, mentoring resources or other institutional strengths.

Targeted Recruitment Activities

  • Sponsor summer research programs for undergraduates to highlight research opportunities and build advisory networks. Demonstrate the graduate application process to visiting students.
  • Invite prospective applicants (individually or in groups) to visit the campus and meet with faculty and students.
  • Communicate directly (e.g., emails, phone calls) with selected groups of prospective applicants. Potential underrepresented group applicants or their faculty mentors may be identified through many sources, including:
    • Underrepresented Student Locator Service of the Educational Testing Service (can be searched by specific criteria).
    • Students supported by NIGMS MARC, RISE, PREP, IMSD and Bridges to the Doctorate programs.
    • Interactive training program maps: Geographical maps of NIGMS training programs to help T32 program directors recruit students and to help PREP, MARC, RISE, IMSD and Bridges to the Doctorate program directors guide their students to T32 programs.
    • Professional society subgroups for members from underrepresented groups.
    • Topic-specific programs, such as industrial internship programs for chemistry or biotech programs.
  • Communicate (e.g., emails, letters, phone calls, brochures, posters) with deans and department chairs at schools having substantial enrollment of students from underrepresented groups. (See "Establish Partnerships, Contacts and Credibility and Long Term Commitment" below.)

Ask training faculty and current students to recruit at meetings and poster sessions at national conferences with a high attendance of underrepresented students, such as the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) Link to external Web site and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Link to external Web site.

Publicize the Program

  • Present recruitment sessions, flyers, posters and videos at meetings of appropriate scientific societies (presentations by training faculty, current students and alumni are emphasized).
  • Advertise in journals that the program is actively recruiting underrepresented students.
    • In educational and professional journals such as National Society for Black Engineers Magazine, The Black Collegian, etc..
    • In science or science-oriented journals appropriate to the scientific area.
    • In campus publications of colleges and universities with substantial enrollment of students from underrepresented groups.
  • Design the training program's web site and brochures to welcome diverse candidates. Link to campus groups and to statements from current  underrepresented students or from underrepresented faculty. Include  underrepresented students and faculty in graphics.
  • Provide laboratory rotations for underrepresented master's degree students. Consider how the master's degree prepares students for entry into Ph.D. training.

Establish Partnerships, Contacts and Credibility and Long Term Commitment

  • Provide summer courses in special biomedical topics and techniques for undergraduate students and faculty from colleges and universities with significant numbers of underrepresented students.
  • Teach or participate in courses at institutions with substantial enrollment of students from underrepresented groups.
  • Establish scientific collaborations with faculty at institutions with substantial enrollment of students from underrepresented groups.
  • Exchange graduate or undergraduate students.
  • Pipeline Activities: While these activities will not immediately translate into recruitment of Ph.D. students, they are important. Send underrepresented graduate students to local high schools to talk about their research and how they decided on a career in science.
    • Increase retention of undergraduate  underrepresented students through student study groups that are part of the undergraduate course curriculum.
    • Bring in high school students and teachers for summer research experiences.
    • Work with local and national industries that could provide support, internships and employment opportunities.

Retention Activities

  • Design a curriculum that aids the transition from undergraduate to graduate school (e.g., reduced course loads in the first year; basic courses in chemistry, math and cellular/molecular biology).
  • Use a pre-entrance summer semester to assist students who may need additional coursework or lab experience.
  • Establish underrepresented student support groups to assist in retention.
  • Assign entering underrepresented students a faculty advisor who is supportive of and sensitive to issues surrounding underrepresented students.
  • Ensure close and careful mentoring by a faculty advisor and possibly other faculty members.
  • Provide a directory of underrepresented graduate students at the university to facilitate networking.
  • Connect students early on to the organizations of underrepresented scientists in the field of study.

B. Strategies and Resources for Recruitment and Retention of Students and Fellows with Disabilities

NIH specifically recognizes that the training community needs to gain experience in developing plans for the recruitment and retention of individuals with disabilities. In addition to efforts above, NIGMS offers the following strategies and resources as a starting point for consideration. These suggestions are not meant to be all-inclusive, and applicants will be expected to establish practices tailored to their institutional and program environment.

  • Provide an open and accommodating environment that focuses on productivity and accomplishment. It is essential for the institution to create an environment where disabilities of various kinds are recognized and addressed in a variety of ways, thereby leading students, faculty and staff to feel comfortable in declaring the need for accommodations related to disability. Consider the implementation of universal design practices (the design of products and environments usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design).
  • Work with the disability coordinator/dean of student services at your institution to develop plans for the recruitment and retention of students with disabilities.
  • Work with organizations within the university that are knowledgeable about disability issues. For example, invite a representative from an ADA office or faculty/staff support office to address faculty members about disabilities and inform them about resources and options related to addressing disabilities.
  • Conduct outreach efforts by linking to programs designed to increase the participation of people with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Examples include 1) the University of Washington-led Access STEM Project Link to external Web site, which is one of the Regional Alliances for Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics funded by the National Science Foundation; and 2) the Institute for Accessible Science (IAS) Link to external Web site, an online site supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, for developing and sharing knowledge and tools for accessible science. The site includes links (via "Get Connected") to programs that promote STEM training and careers for individuals with disabilities.
  • Develop a statement on your program Web site that publicizes your commitment to diversity, including disabled students. Provide links to institutional information, individuals and resources of interest to disabled students and applicants, such as Office of Student Services or disability coordinator.
  • Identify local undergraduate schools with disabled students for your outreach efforts. Your institution may have an office that is able to provide this information.
  • Explore opportunities/resources available through the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) Link to external Web site.
  • Find information from a presentation on the NIGMS website: "Promoting Diversity in Research: Championing an Inclusive Scientific Workforce".
  • Find information from the report of the 2009 NSF/NIH joint meeting on "Chemists, Chemical Engineers, and Materials Scientists with Disabilities" [PDF, 3.5MB].

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This page last reviewed on August 19, 2015