Efforts to increase the diversity of the Ph.D. program in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) are getting a significant boost, thanks to news that the American Geophysical Union is partnering with the school through its American Geophysical Union Bridge Program (AGU-BP).
The AGU partners with institutions of higher education “to recruit and retain underrepresented students who are applying to geoscience graduate schools.” Georgia Tech and EAS will soon have access to the AGU’s database of Bridge student applications “and will join our community of other institutions engaged in holistic admission practices.”
“We are very excited to hear this news,” says EAS professor Taka Ito, who worked on the Bridge proposal. “It is of course nice to know that our effort was successful, but I feel that this is special because we wanted to do something about the systemic racial biases that exist in STEM, including geosciences.”
This is the second effort in 2020 to foster diversity and inclusivity efforts within the College of Sciences via a Bridge Program. In April of this year, the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry formally joined the American Chemical Society’s Bridge Program (ACS-BP). Georgia Tech also hosts an ACS-BP program called GT-EQUAL through the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Ito says he and his EAS colleagues started working on the proposal in 2019 “with strong participation and support from (EAS Chair) Greg Huey and many of our faculty members.”
When it comes to increasing Ph.D. diversity within the school to include more underrepresented minority (URM) groups, “our most pressing challenge is the relatively small applicant pool of URM students, which translates into proportionally limited admission and enrollment,” Ito shares. An important aspect of the AGU Bridge Program is that direct pipeline to URM students. “As a partner institution, we will have access to the national database of URM graduate applicants to the Bridge Program, and we hope to find a match and bring in those students into our Ph.D. program.”
Once those URM students join geoscience graduate courses, the EAS proposal includes induction, mentoring, academic support, and faculty engagement help make the Ph.D. program more inclusive and supportive for students with diverse backgrounds.
During their work on the proposal, Ito and EAS colleagues tapped Georgia Tech resources including the College of Sciences Faculty Diversity Council, and the Georgia Tech FOCUS program. “We will coordinate with the ongoing work on diversity and equity at the College and Georgia Tech, and this will certainly benefit us,” he adds.
EAS has also joined several other College of Sciences schools and programs in permanently dropping GRE requirements for its Ph.D. and M.S. programs, as a part of broader efforts to make the admission process more holistic. The school is also developing an accelerated quantitative course in math, statistics, and computing skills during the summer, for students seeking additional preparation before entering EAS graduate programs.
Ito says he’s excited to hear about and connect with the other Bridge programs on campus and is hoping to learn from their experiences.
“We are just starting and will have to figure out many details, but I'm looking forward to welcoming the first cohort of AGU-BP Fellows next fall,” he says.