Nurtures Minorities in Math and Science
Created in 1988 to address the shortage
of African-American males in the math and science fields,
the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program at the University of Maryland,
Baltimore County (UMBC) has proved to be remarkably effective.
Fourteen years after its inception, and expanded to include
women and all races, the program has kept to a focused core
mission--reversing the under-representation of minorities
in the fields of math and science. Designed to send gifted
minority undergraduates on their way to math and science Ph.D.s,
the program currently graduates ninety-five percent of its
students in the fields of math and science.
The success of the program depends
in part on a carefully considered ecosystem: students attend
a special Summer Bridge Program to prepare them for the coming
school year. The scholarship program also includes attentive
advising, help with internship and fellowship applications,
and extensive research experience. Students are encouraged
to study in groups and, following the model of learning communities
elsewhere, are housed together in the dorms.
Another factor in the success of
this program is its competitiveness. Applicants must have
a B average in high school both overall and specifically in
math and science. They must boast excellent SAT scores with
a math score of at least 600 and be nominated by their principals
or guidance counselors.
A less tangible factor in the program's
success is the culture of support and expectation of excellence
fostered on the campus. UMBC president and Meyerhoff co-founder
President Freeman A. Hrabowski III, an African-American mathematician
and social activist, identified other core elements for the
success of the program in a recent Washington Post article:
Recruit superior faculty and
actively connect them with students.
Make sure the program is "at
the core" of the university; one problem with minority
programs at predominantly white campuses is that the programs
do not engage the faculty, and the programs themselves
Think about how to teach first-year
students to make up for the gap between high school and
college. Even with AP training, the leap to college-level
work is a big one.
Have the students work in groups--when
students' social lives and study lives are not worlds
apart, the students prove more successful.
Pair the students with mentors
to make sure they are on the right path, and ask the students
to "look out for one another."
Discuss progress with students
early and often-get them used to analyzing failures and
successes. Students have to be able to learn to overcome
obstacles and learn from mistakes.
President Hrabowski is a member
of AAC&U's current Board of Directors.
For more information about the Meyerhoff
Scholarship Program, visit www.umbc.edu/meyerhoff.
To download the National Science
Foundation's 2000 report, Women & Minorities in Science
and Engineering, visit www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/nsf00327/toc.htm#front.
For the Washington Post article,
For information on AAC&U's project
"Women & Scientific Literacy: Building Two-Way Streets"
For information on AAC&U's recent
publication "Gender, Science, and the Undergraduate Curriculum,"