Executive Report and Recommendations
G. Existing Programs and Models for Success
Across the Institute, there have been several efforts introduced at departmental and school levels to address URM and women faculty recruitment, graduate student recruitment and pipeline issues. Furthermore, efforts have appeared to address hiring, search and hidden bias issues as well, with a number of new programs or policies developed over the past few years. In this section, we highlight a few examples of these efforts, many of which represent both known and new approaches to increase the pool of diverse candidates in hiring. Many of these efforts represent models or concepts that are indicated as Institute-wide mandates or goals in the recommendations. This short list is not intended to be exhaustive; there are numerous programs that exist across the Institute that also provide useful examples of ways in which diversity can be addressed. It is an intent of this study to initiate further discussion and sharing of such programs across the Institute, including both success stories and lessons learned from less successful attempts as a means of informing new efforts launched. Finally, it is important to emphasize that there are many examples of wonderful ideas and efforts that have been carried out on the campuses of other research-intensive universities. It is important to learn from these examples and determine which aspects of models set forth by peer institutions can be adapted to MIT. A few examples are provided here, but the list is not meant to be exhaustive, merely representative of the successful models embraced by our peer schools.
Examples from MIT
MIT Pappalardo Fellowships in Physics
The Pappalardo Fellows Program in Physics is highlighted here as a model that worked for increasing numbers of women faculty at MIT. For certain fields and disciplines, it is thought that similar models may be effective in increasing URM faculty candidates and hires. The mission of the MIT Pappalardo Fellowships in Physics is to sustain a distinguished, on-campus postdoctoral fellowship program for the department that identifies, recruits and supports the most talented and promising young physicists at an early stage of their careers. This initiative was made possible by the generosity of Mr. A. Neil Pappalardo (EE '64), an MIT alumnus with a long history of generosity to both the Institute and the Department of Physics. The program traditionally appoints three new fellows per academic year, each for a three-year fellowship term. Fellows are selected by means of an annual competition; candidates cannot apply directly, but must be nominated by a faculty member or senior researcher within the international community of physics, astronomy or related fields.
All MIT Pappalardo Fellows in Physics are provided with the following:
- Independence in selection and focus of research direction within the MIT Department of Physics throughout their three-year fellowship term;
- Active faculty mentoring fostered by weekly luncheons and monthly dinners with faculty and guests during the academic year, which promotes scientific exchange and professional growth for the fellows;
- A competitive annual stipend with an annual cost-of-living increase (currently $60K for first-year fellows), combined with $5K per year in discretionary research funds; and
- MIT Medical health insurance coverage for fellows and their dependents.
The outreach to the physics community for the program is large, with a rigorous selection process that engages faculty in the evaluation of fellows. Beginning each July, more than 1,300 physics (and related fields) faculty are emailed a solicitation for nominations of their top candidates for that fall's fellowship competition. Approximately 135 to 150 nominations are received each year. The review, evaluation and selection process begins with a thorough reading and grading of applicant materials (CV, publications list, research essay, three reference letters) by a minimum of two faculty members (typically both an experimentalist and a theorist in the candidate's area of physics). A short list of approximately 18 finalists is selected by committee consensus in mid-November. Over a two-day period in mid-December, the finalists meet for one half-hour each in a panel-style interview with the committee (15-20 minute "blackboard" talk by the finalist, with 10-15 minutes of Q & A with the faculty). At the end of this two-day interview period, the committee ranks all finalists, designating by consensus the top three to receive "first-round" offers, followed by five to six alternates, with the remaining half designated as not yet at that stage of career development that would allow them to benefit from an independent postdoctoral position such as the Pappalardo Fellowships.
Results of the MIT Pappalardo Fellowships Program indicate that from its inception year in 2000 to 2009, two of the five Pappalardo Fellows appointed to the MIT physics faculty are women (Gabriella Sciolla and Jocelyn Monroe). A total of 10 of the overall 34 Pappalardo Fellows during this same time period have been women (17 of 60 fellowship offers made were to women finalists), and 37 of 171 fellowship finalists invited to interview were women. It is also noted that each year since its inception, the Pappalardo Fellowships Executive Committee membership included one to two women faculty.
Biology URM Student Outreach Programs
In the recent past, the Department of Biology has made intentional and focused efforts to address graduate student enrollment and, in particular, graduate student diversity. The determination of the faculty to address this problem and implement substantive change was additionally fueled by concerns expressed by the National Institutes of Health and related NIH training grants operated by the department. Several faculty members were committed to changing diversity numbers at the graduate student level, which will ultimately improve the pipeline for faculty hires. This progress has been facilitated in part by the hiring of a full-time staff person, Mandana Sassanfar, who has coordinated many of the department's new outreach programs and efforts. Thus, over the last five years, the Department of Biology has made great strides in increasing the diversity of the population by recruiting URM graduate students to its program. In this time period, the fraction of students who are underrepresented minorities has almost tripled, with a steady increase from 5.2% in 2004 to 14.4% in 2009.
A variety of positive and focused outreach activities have synergistically come together to contribute to this success. These activities include: 1) faculty participation in the major national conferences for minority scientists and undergraduate students, including the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) and Society Advancing Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS); 2) faculty visits to colleges and universities with a large URM population. This establishes regular and direct contacts with directors of programs that aim to increase URM and underprivileged students' access to scientific research careers, e.g. Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC), Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS), the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at University of Maryland and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI); 3) providing summer research opportunities to URM and underprivileged students at MIT (co-administered with the Science and Engineering-supported MIT Summer Research Program, or MSRP); 4) providing coordinated or individualized campus visits to MIT for URM and underprivileged students interested in graduate school in the biological sciences; and 5) providing opportunities for faculty from primarily URM-serving institutions to perform sabbatical research or to visit and present their research at MIT. These activities have contributed to success in recruiting outstanding minority students to the Biology program, not only by making direct contact with the students themselves, but also by providing opportunities for the Department of Biology to establish significant relationships with key faculty who mentor minority and disadvantaged students.
Future Faculty Workshop - Cross-disciplinary Materials Workshop
To address the need for increased diversity among faculty working in the areas of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (as it relates to Polymer Science and Materials Science), Department Chair and Professor of Chemistry Tim Swager teamed with colleagues at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, to create a workshop to train URM students and scholars in these fields. The workshop, designed to help prepare URMs for a faculty career, was a cross-disciplinary effort with the departments of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, and involved similar departments at the partner schools. The co-founder of the program is Prof. Richard McCullough, vice president for research and professor of chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University. This pilot workshop was held for the first time from June 15 to 17, 2008, at MIT's Endicott House. The second workshop was held in Pittsburgh, PA, at Carnegie Mellon from August 8 to 11, 2009, and a third one is being planned at the University of Massachusetts campus for 2010 or 2011.
The three-day workshop seeks to provide mentorship to aspiring underrepresented minority students with ambitions to become independent academic researchers in the areas of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science as they relate to Polymer Science, Materials Chemistry and Physics, Nanoscience, and Supramolecular Science. A diverse set of professors from varying ethnic backgrounds and stages of their careers participated as speakers and mentors, with a student/ faculty ratio of less than four maintained. Prominent faculty from each of the institutions involved participated in the program, giving lectures that included topics on research perspectives and practical issues, how to prepare a strong research plan for a faculty application, and how to find a good postdoctoral position. The agenda also included informal networking mixers, talks and panel discussions on preparing for the "Path to Professorship" by creating a strong experience in graduate school, developing research interests (creating a unique identity), choosing and cultivating mentors, developing strong references, sharing personal experiences in job interviews, the job application process, the job interview, writing research proposals, intellectual property issues and pitfalls, and unwritten rules. There were break-out sessions with mentors to work with students and postdocs on proposal development, and specific panels on running a research group and negotiations with department heads and deans. The technical research talks were presented by faculty in the evening sessions. Funding for the workshop was provided by the MIT departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering; Carnegie Mellon University; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Dow Chemical Co.; and the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF).
Position of Manager of Diversity Recruitment for the School of Architecture and Planning
The hiring of a person who can focus on increasing the pipeline, the formation of networks and issues such as climate can be essential to advance diversity efforts on the department or school level. To this end, the dean of the School of Architecture and Planning has hired a manager of diversity recruitment (MDR), the only school-level position of its kind at MIT. The current person hired for this position is Dr. Robbin Chapman, a URM woman who earned her Ph.D. at MIT and is thus well acquainted with the Institute and its unique culture. The MDR supports faculty search committees within the school's units by assisting with outreach and the development of candidate pools; providing diversity training as requested; updating the school's faculty search handbook on diversity issues; and facilitating interaction between search committee chairs and the school's Faculty Diversity Committee. The MDR also assists with recruiting graduate students, via attendance at relevant conferences and engagement of faculty to do the same, and by serving as a point person for visiting URM prospective students. She facilitated the school's inaugural participation in the MITES program in 2009 and is a member of all SA&P department and school-level diversity committees.
The MDR convenes monthly diversity roundtable dialogues, which address a range of diversity and inclusion issues. The discussions provide practice in cross-cultural communication. The MDR has also championed diversity snapshots of a broad variety of SA+P faculty, staff and students, to help viewers challenge their assumptions about individuals based on what can be seen. Each snapshot includes a photographic image and three lists, titled: "Some things you can see about me," "What you may guess about me," and "What you can't tell by looking at me." These snapshots - displayed on flat-panel screens in the school's corridors and common spaces - have received a good deal of positive response from students and faculty alike as a means of introducing members of the school's community while celebrating its diversity. Finally, the MDR office has led an open-to-the-Institute series of diversity workshops over MIT's Independent Activities Period (IAP). In sum, the MDR position appears to be a good use of resources, in large part because the current holder was an excellent fit for the appointment. More information is available at http://sap.mit.edu/about/diversity/.
Chemical Engineering Department ACCESS Program
For the first time in fall 2009, the Department of Chemical Engineering decided to launch a program directed toward potential graduate student candidates entitled "A Community in Chemical Engineering Select Symposium," or ACCESS. The program, initiated by Department Head Klavs Jensen, was in direct response to suggestions and recommendations derived from the visit by the Chemical Engineering 2009 Visiting Committee (VC). Among the recommendations, one proposed by a member of the MIT Corporation was to develop a program that directly engages a broader pool of diverse applicants to the department via outreach. In separate discussions, another VC member, who is chief executive at Dow Chemical Company, offered to fund such a program. The symposium was organized by the department's student office and headed by Student Administrator Suzanne Easterly and her staff, with support from the Graduate Admissions Chair, Professor Arup Chakraborty.
The ACCESS program is a three-day visit to MIT that provides URM undergraduate students (juniors and seniors) with an overview of the potential benefits of a graduate chemical engineering degree. In addition to the educational and research opportunities inherent in graduate studies, the program gives details on the MIT community and available support for minority students. During their visit, participants also receive a glimpse of graduate student life in the Boston area. The first ACCESS symposium, held in late October, engaged 17 students from diverse backgrounds, including a dominant number of URMs. All received one-on-one discussions with faculty members in research areas of interest to them, research lectures from prominent faculty members, workshops on the chemical engineering graduate school application process, and discussions about graduate opportunities at MIT and beyond. Only an undergraduate student nominated by his or her current school's department head can apply to attend ACCESS. Faculty at the peer U.S. institutions in Chemical Engineering, as well as historically Black colleges & universities/minority institutions (HBCU/MIs), are contacted about the program, and nominations are solicited and advertised broadly. Early reports from this program indicate that several students were excited about the prospect of applying to MIT. Finally, all received significant information regarding the admission requirements that can help them shape their undergraduate background to increase the possibility of admittance to MIT and other top schools in the field.
SHASS - Search Oversight and Departmental Lecture Series
SHASS leadership (Dean Fitzgerald and three predecessors) has exercised joint faculty and administrative oversight of all search and hiring requests from each department at the school level. A committee consisting of the dean, associate deans, director of human resources, and an equal number of faculty from various departments reviewed each "Request to Search" and "Request to Hire" to assure the use of best practices, and to serve as a backstop even when the department designated its own minority interests representative on a search committee. The joint committee has visited departments to speak with the full faculty, search committee and/or department head prior to planned searches in order to discuss best practices and to answer questions.
The deans have encouraged department heads and committed individual faculty members to make creative use of Institute Target of Opportunity guidelines. In addition, they have offered funds to support a departmental lecture series to enable colleagues to meet and scrutinize potential candidates among their cohort before a formal search. Within the last five years, the dean has challenged each SHASS unit to present the names of senior minority scholars in their fields who could be tenured at MIT. From these lists, efforts to recruit and hire were made with one yield. The department heads have used Targets of Opportunity within a search to add a previously unanticipated talent or dimension of the field and, since 1995, at least 13 URM scholars have been added to SHASS in departments such as Music and Theater Arts, Linguistics and Philosophy, Writing and Humanistic Studies, Anthropology, History, Literature, and Science, Technology and Society. Six are now tenured professors. Of these six, one was hired as the result of a discipline-based lecture series funded by the dean's office.
Hidden Bias Discussions in the School of Science
During the 2008-2009 academic year, the School of Science (SoS) Dean's Office sponsored discussions concerning "hidden bias" for faculty in each SoS department. Discussions were organized and led by two highly qualified MIT faculty members, Professor Sally Haslanger (philosophy) and Prof. Thomas DeFrantz (theater arts, women's and gender studies). Attendance was strongly encouraged and monitored. These sessions appeared to facilitate conversations about concepts surrounding bias ("schemas") and opened the way for further consideration of bias present in a department that may impact recruitment and retention. Previous hidden bias seminars had been presented in 2007 at MIT Sloan by Associate Dean JoAnne Yates and Barbara Liskov. The material used for the more recent discussions was adapted from materials utilized by the STRIDE program at Michigan (see below).
Each department advertised the discussion to its faculty members, including the following text: "The upcoming discussion concerning 'Overcoming Hidden Bias,' sponsored by the dean's office, comprises a forum to address hidden gender and racial bias. The interesting notion of 'schemas' - unconscious expectations that govern our interactions - will specifically be explored. We hope that these discussions will be a productive way to help faculty identify hidden bias, especially during recruitment and retention."
School of Engineering - Central Coordination of Search Committees
When the School of Engineering administration informally surveyed search committees after the completion of searches, it was found that women and URM candidates were sometimes not selected because of a lack of fit rather than a lack of qualifications. In such cases, the candidate was highly qualified, but the research area did not appear to meet the more specific needs of the department. The dean's office responded to this observation by adapting the flexibility of hires as well as the opportunity for excellent top candidates to be hired in an appropriate unit within the school. This approach has contributed to the hiring of five URM faculty and 10 women in the past two recruiting years. One of several key means of accomplishing this flexibility is the formation of a Faculty Search Committee in the school. For the past two years, every search goes through a central coordination with Associate Dean Cindy Barnhardt. Barnhardt chairs the Faculty Search Diversity Committee, the members of which are the search chairs of each department. This committee meets every three to four weeks during the recruiting season (from November through May) to discuss information about specific candidates, in part because some applicants apply for more than one department. Before interviews begin, interview lists are sent to Barnhardt along with lists of eliminated women and minorities. At the meeting, the reasons for elimination of these candidates are discussed, and if the candidate is not a good fit for a given department, there is the opportunity for another department in a related field to consider the candidate. Such opportunities are not unusual, as research in the engineering fields has become more and more interdisciplinary. By utilizing this system of coordination, a candidate who is highly qualified has a greater chance of being considered and ultimately hired by one of the engineering departments.
MIT Sloan - Cluster Hiring
For some time the MIT Sloan School of Management had tried to hire a senior woman for a Target of Opportunity (TOO) slot, but without success. In fact, MIT Sloan was the only school that had not made such an appointment, which ultimately led the deputy dean - concerned about diversity hiring - to authorize certain slots as TOO only, particularly to groups whose case for a slot was less strong. Certain groups who only had a TOO slot were then much more active in looking for candidates and did indeed make offers to senior women. The ability to use cluster hiring - hiring in larger groups and a range of different areas - enables greater inclusion of people from diverse groups, including women and URMs. In addition, the combination of broader cluster hires with some TOO restrictions can lead to increased diversity in hiring. In recruitment for the 2009-2010 year, MIT Sloan authorized 21 positions of which eight were specifically designated as TOO. MIT Sloan made 30 offers for the 21 slots, as some of the top candidates turned down offers in favor of other opportunities.
The distribution of the offers is as follows:
- 2 senior male minority
- 1 junior female minority
- 5 senior White women
- 4 junior White women
- 18 others, all male
The final roster of 14 new faculty consists of the following:
- 1 senior male minority
- 1 junior female minority
- 2 senior White women
- 3 junior White women
- 7 others, all male
The provost gave Sloan two TOO slots to cover these positions.
The distribution of the 21 "first choice" invitations is also very diverse:
- 2 senior male minority
- 1 junior female minority
- 5 senior White women
- 3 junior White women
- 10 others, all male
Experimental data have shown that selecting 10 candidates from a pool at one time leads to a more diverse group than selecting 10 people one at a time from the same pool. This is behind the recommendation for cluster hiring, which has a secondary advantage of creating a cohort of newcomers, which can be particularly helpful for all junior faculty.
MIT Summer Research Program
Since its first summer in 1986, MSRP has tirelessly worked to increase the pool of minority students who pursue graduate degrees. During this time, MSRP has seen more than 90% of program participants pursue advanced degrees. With a goal of encouraging and preparing students to pursue graduate degrees at an institution of higher learning (not specifically at MIT), MIT was able to capture 17% of the 400 program participants.
A faculty committee, commissioned in 2004 by then-Provost Robert Brown, was charged with redesigning MSRP as MIT's premier recruitment tool for underrepresented minority students. Since then, the committee has continued to serve as an advisory board for MSRP. Working with this committee, chaired by Professor Paula Hammond of the Department of Chemical Engineering, Christopher Jones (assistant dean for graduate education) has continued to implement important changes in the program. During its redesign, MSRP articulated its mission: "To promote the value of graduate education, to improve the research enterprise through increased diversity, and to prepare and recruit the best and brightest for graduate education at MIT." As a direct result of the redesign, there has been an increase in the number of MSRP participants who apply to, are admitted and ultimately decide to enroll in MIT's graduate programs.
Since the expansion of MSRP in 2005, more departments and programs throughout the Institute have become active participants, and the 2009 class included interns who worked in urban studies and mathematics. Not only have each of the five MIT schools agreed to a five-year commitment to fund a number of the interns, but several faculty members have added MSRP to their research grants providing funding for individual interns. MSRP continues to build lasting relationships within the MIT and broader Boston communities. To further engage the departments, MSRP continues formal visits with graduate officers, graduate administrators and current students in the departments in which MSRP interns have expressed an interest.
Key to the success of MSRP is faculty participation. Since 1986, more than 150 faculty members from a range of Institute departments have served as direct mentors to more than 500 MSRP interns. Faculty involvement includes program design, intern selection and matching interns with projects and academic interactions. MSRP continues to have a significant academic component in which faculty conduct weekly lunch seminars on their research.
Finally, MSRP continues to be successful at engaging alumni of the program who currently attend MIT as graduate students, hosting several events and dinners to bring this group together while also providing resources for their success.
Peer Institution Examples
University of Michigan STRIDE (Science and Technology Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence)
This program was established under the University of Michigan's NSF ADVANCE program with the leadership of ADVANCE's PI, a social scientist familiar with the gender field. The design was based on and further adapted from Harvard University's Committee on Faculty Diversity. The initial committee was recruited by the deans of three colleges in the science and engineering fields and consisted of a group of highly respected senior faculty who were given resources for course release or research support. STRIDE was led by social scientist and Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies Abigail Stewart, who was provided with staff support. The STRIDE committee members, consisting of a majority of men, were actually new to the PI and to each other. They spent a summer reviewing research literature on gender schemas and evaluation bias, discussed it with the PI, and ultimately produced a PowerPoint presentation along with a 27-page recruiting handbook. They then met with departments, department heads, recruiting committees, and anyone else interested to give their presentations and lead discussions. The handbook was widely distributed by the deans. During the first year of their efforts, the recruitment of women scientists doubled from 15% to 31%. In later years, they began to recruit other faculty allies into a new group called FASTER (Friends and Allies of Science and Technology Equity in Recruiting) and taught the new members what they had learned. Today, many universities, including MIT, have based their own presentations on STRIDE. The University of Michigan is now supporting the program since their NSF funding has ended. http://sitemaker.umich.edu/advance/stride.
Fisk-Vanderbilt Master's-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program
This program emerged from two facts about the trajectories of minority students to the doctorate in science. First, the 10 top producers of African American baccalaureates in physics are HBCUs. Second, the trajectory of minority students to move toward a doctorate is more likely to be via a master's degree in a different institution, hence creating complicated transition issues not typically found with non-minority students. The Bridge Program that emerged is based on applications to Fisk for a master's degree in physics. After successful completion of that degree, including a master's thesis, students can apply to Vanderbilt Ph.D. programs in physics, astronomy, materials, biology and the biomedical sciences. These students are not promised admission to the Vanderbilt Ph.D. program and, like other candidates, have to meet the standard requirements. What they are offered, however, is the following: the opportunity to take courses at Vanderbilt during their time at Fisk; the provision of a Vanderbilt advisor as well as a Fisk advisor; help in preparation for the GREs; and an invitation to participate in programs such as Preparing Future Faculty.
At the time of application to Fisk, students are asked if they want to be considered for the Bridge Program. The application goes through the standard Fisk admissions process and then proceeds to the Bridge committee, consisting of relevant faculty from both institutions and including the Vanderbilt graduate admissions person. Criteria for admission to the Bridge Program are not proven ability but unrealized potential, which is gauged by personal visits with faculty at baccalaureate schools, heavy marketing, and attendance at minority association meetings and conferences. The program, therefore, is meant to increase the pool of minority Ph.D.s, rather than fight for those who already meet the accepted criteria of admission to top programs. It has had the secondary effect of increasing applications to Vanderbilt science doctoral programs from minority students who do meet the usual criteria.
During the Bridge years, students take courses at Fisk and at Vanderbilt, including at least one core Ph.D. course at Vanderbilt. They have advisors from both schools and have research experiences with faculties at both. Their Vanderbilt advisor serves as a mentor on the Vanderbilt Ph.D. application and admission process and is specifically geared to being an advocate for the student during this time. This one-to-one relationship between the Fisk student and the Vanderbilt mentor is the core of the program. In addition, full financial support is provided during the Bridge years and during the Ph.D. program, if the person is accepted. To date, the success rate of acceptance to Vanderbilt is 97% and they attribute their failures to the program, rather than to the student. They have actually modified the program on the basis of some of these failures and are beginning to send a few of their students to other Ph.D. programs, including one at Yale.
Meyerhoff Scholars Program at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
This program started in 1988 with a grant from Robert and Jane Meyerhoff to provide financial aid, mentoring, advising and research experience to young African American male undergraduates committed to getting Ph.D.s in STEM fields. In 1990 women were admitted to the program, and in 1996 it was opened to people from all backgrounds who were "committed to increasing the representation of minorities in science and engineering." That year also was the beginning of the Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows Program in the biomedical and behavioral sciences.
Selected scholars receive full financial aid, including room and board, and attend a mandatory six-week summer bridge program, which includes courses in math and science as well as in African American studies. The bridge program is not seen as remedial, as students are chosen for their strengths, but is meant to acclimate students to the philosophy of the program. The college experience of these scholars is based on high academic expectations, with students working together in study groups. They are also expected to participate in some community activities. While the group forms a close community, each individual also receives personal advising, counseling and tutoring as necessary, as well as a mentor from the larger Baltimore-Washington area. During the summer, students are placed into research internships provided with stipends. The program's underlying philosophy is high expectations and appropriate environmental support.
A recent evaluation comparing the first 10 years of Meyerhoff Scholars with those who were accepted into the program but declined (students with higher verbal SATs who went to universities of somewhat higher standing) showed that 29% of the Meyerhoff group compared to only 5.5% of those in the comparison group had graduated from or were attending STEM Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. programs, a dramatic difference.