A proposal from the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry designed to boost the number of underrepresented minority (URM) students in the discipline at Georgia Tech has been chosen for a key American Chemical Society diversity initiative.
Stefan France, an associate professor in the school, says he worked on the proposal, called GT-CREATER, along with Kenyetta Johnson, the school’s director of graduate studies. The result of their work “is one of the top Bridge Site proposals, and we would like to invite you to become an ACS Bridge Site,” wrote Joerg Schlatterer, ACS Bridge Project Director, in an email to France. “We congratulate you on your strong efforts and your commitment to diversity, inclusion and respect. We look forward to making an impact, together, by increasing diversity in the chemical sciences.”
“My initial response was one of relief and excitement,” France said. “Relief because Kenyetta and I put a lot of work into the proposal since December, and into organizing the March site visit, so it felt good that the hard work paid off. I’m excited because I feel that the Bridge Program offers an innovative and exciting new way to address the pipeline issues in chemical research for URM students.”
According to the ACS Bridge Program website, the ACS-BP is “an effort to increase the number of chemical science PhDs awarded to URM students,” defined as African-American, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans. The ACS is one of 30 top scientific societies to form the Inclusive Graduate Education Network (IGEN) as a way to boost more women and URMs into graduate studies of the physical sciences. (The IGEN is part of the diversity-focused National Science Foundation INCLUDES Program).
“ACS-BP is doing this by creating sustainable transition (bridge) programs, and a national network of doctoral granting institutions that provide substantial mentoring for students to successfully complete Ph.D. programs,” the website says.
ACS Bridge spotlights practices at institutions that have had success in attracting and supporting more URM students. Georgia Tech currently hosts an ACS-BP program called GT-EQUAL at the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
“The ACS-BP will also establish links between minority-serving and doctoral-granting institutions through research activities, collaboration, and personal contacts,” the website says. The goal is to ensure doctoral students get a chance to become tomorrow’s academic, industrial, and government leaders. ACS believes that will result in more URM students choosing to enhance their studies in chemistry “at all stages in the system and will help address persistent disparities.”
France and Johnson’s proposal reworks the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry’s thesis-based Masters of Science program to provide transitional training from the Bachelors of Science to Ph.D. programs. “Increasing the number of successful URM chemistry and biochemistry M.S. – and ultimately, Ph.D. – students would make an important impact and continue to demonstrate Georgia Tech’s commitment to inclusive excellence,” France says.
The GT-CREATER Bridge Site will provide a chemistry-led, integrated learning environment incorporating high-quality research, assessment-based teaching experiences, and focused professional development.
The site will emphasize collaboration, including with other disciplines, and will provide encouragement and preparation to pursue PhDs and/or careers in the sciences.
The GT-CREATER Bridge Site will enroll at least two students annually and provide a three-year grant. While earning a thesis M.S. in Chemistry, those students will receive:
- An individually designed schedule of classes
- Early access to research and advisor selection
- A peer mentor within the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry
- Teaching opportunities through partial teaching assistantship
- Targeted opportunities and training in oral and written communication.
“Although many programs and institutions have helped to successfully increase the ranks of URM students in graduate chemistry programs, retention of those URM students remains a major issue,” France says. “The ACS Bridge Program is focused on directly addressing the URM retention issue by facilitating the creation of supportive environments. Individualized mentoring from faculty and peers, training, and professional development is used as a means of support, assessment, and induction into the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry community.”