Enhancing Diversity in Training Programs

Institutional training programs are required to demonstrate successful efforts to recruit an outstanding and diverse trainee population, including students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups and students with disabilities. In addition, the training programs should describe efforts to sustain the scientific interests of trainees from all backgrounds within the program.

The Institutional Training Grant Funding Opportunity Announcements (Basic Biomedical Sciences: PAR-17-431; Medical Sciences Training Program; PAR-​19-036​) call for a "Recruitment Plan to Enhance Diversity" and specifies groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences to include:

  1. Individuals from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the National Science Foundation to be underrepresented in health-related sciences on a national basis (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). The following racial and ethnic groups have been shown to be underrepresented in biomedical research: Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. In addition, it is recognized that underrepresentation can vary from setting to setting; individuals from racial or ethnic groups that can be demonstrated convincingly to be underrepresented by the grantee institution should be encouraged to participate in this program. For more information on racial and ethnic categories and definitions, see NOT-OD-15-089.
  2. Individuals with disabilities, who are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended Link to external web site. See NSF data at, https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2017/nsf17310/ Link to external web site.

See NOT-OD-18-210​ for more details. Institutions are encouraged to identify candidates who will increase diversity on a national basis. 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 students and fellows from underrepresented groups requires active involvement of the program director, the training grant faculty and institutional officials. Thus, centralized institutional efforts alone will not satisfy the requirement to recruit individuals from underrepresented groups to the training program. 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 students from underrepresented groups with appropriate undergraduate training. Visit these schools to publicize graduate training opportunities. In addition, consider reaching reach out to other feeder schools or programs to identify students from underrepresented groups that might be good candidates for your graduate program. 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. Ensure that the admissions process assures that students with the potential to be successful are included considering all application data, especially interviews, letters of recommendations, and research experience.
  • Consider institutional assets. Work with the student advising and diversity offices on your 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 to visit the campus and meet with faculty and students. Inviting all the accepted students from underrepresented groups for a visit together, and using that time to showcase the institution’s diversity support groups as well as the training program has proven to be an effective technique in getting diversity students to matriculate.
  • Communicate directly (e.g., emails, phone calls) with selected groups of prospective applicants. Potential applicants from underrepresented groups, or their faculty mentors may be identified through many sources, including:
    • Students supported by NIGMS-supported diversity and capacity building programs, such as MARC, RISE, PREP, IMSD, Bridges to the Doctorate, and INBRE.
    • Interactive training program maps: Geographical maps of NIGMS training programs to help T32 program directors recruit students and to help the program directors of NIGMS undergraduate and predoctoral diversity programs 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, 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.
  • Strategically employ social media and engage with the communities of students and scientists from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups (e.g. @BLACKandSTEM, @SACNAS, @CienciaPR, etc.)
  • Design the training program's web site and brochures to welcome candidates from all backgrounds. Link to campus groups and to statements from current students or faculty from underrepresented groups. Include students and faculty from underrepresented groups 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 nearby 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.
  • Longer-term developmental Activities: While these activities will not immediately translate into recruitment of Ph.D. students, they are important. Encourage graduate students from underrepresented groups to speak at local high schools to talk about their research and how they decided on a career in science.
    • Encourage graduate students from underrepresented groups to speak at 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 as well as internships and employment opportunities.

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

NIGMS specifically recognizes that the training community needs to gain experience in developing plans for the recruitment of individuals with disabilities. The Institute also recognizes that disabilities must be self-reported and not all students are comfortable in letting their disabilities be known. However, there must be good faith efforts to recruit students with disabilities and strong support for retention of students 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.

Note that describing university efforts to provide accommodations in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act alone will not be considered satisfactory with respect to the recruitment or retention plans for trainees with disabilities.

  • Provide a welcoming and accommodating environment that focuses on student’s potential 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 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 AccessSTEM 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; 2) advertising in online and print outlets that are targeted to individuals with disabilities; 3) Entry Point! Link to external web site, a American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)-sponsored program that identifies and recruits students with apparent and non-apparent disabilities studying in science, engineering, mathematics, and computer science; 4) participate in, or develop, webinar/virtual career fairs targeted to individuals with disabilities; and 5) 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.
  • Work with the disability coordinators/deans of students at local universities, and request them to distribute materials about your training program to students with disabilities who are interested in pursuing careers in the biomedical sciences.
  • Strategically employ social media and engage with the communities of students and scientists 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
  • See information on "Guide for Recruitment and Retention of Students with Disabilities" [PDF, 460KB] from a presentation by Lisa Meeks from UCSF at the GREAT Group meeting in July, 2017.
  • 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].

C. Retention Activities

These activities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Assign entering underrepresented students, and students with disability a faculty advisor who is supportive of and sensitive to issues surrounding these students.
  • Work with the disability coordinator/dean of student services at your institution to develop plans for the retention of students with disabilities.
  • 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.
  • Ensure close and careful mentoring by a faculty advisor and possibly other faculty members.
  • Provide a directory of graduate students from underrepresented groups, and students with disability at the university to facilitate networking.
  • Connect students early on to the organizations of underrepresented scientists in the field of study.