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National Research Council (US) Chemical Sciences Roundtable. Minorities in the Chemical Workforce: Diversity Models that Work: A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2003.

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Minorities in the Chemical Workforce: Diversity Models that Work: A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable.

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5The Meyerhoff Undergraduate Scholars Program

Michael F. Summers

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

This evening you are going to get an enthusiastic presentation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County's (UMBC's), president and founder of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski. Dr. Hrabowski is one of only a very small number of African American presidents of predominantly white universities in our country. When he came to our campus in 1988, we had no coordinated minority training efforts on campus. He has really transformed UMBC. He is an example of how one person with a vision and a lot of energy can have a large catalytic effect and can change the way departments view education and treat their students.

The first part of my presentation focuses on UMBC's Meyerhoff undergraduate program. In the latter part, I will tell you about our more recent efforts to develop a biomedical graduate training program that is modeled after the undergraduate program.

The Meyerhoff Scholars Program began with a $500,000 donation from the Meyerhoff Foundation. Today at UMBC, there are nine different undergraduate programs and three graduate programs run by faculty in different departments across campus, based on the highly successful Meyerhoff model. The first graduate-level training grant we received was the Initiative for Minority Student Development (IMSD) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). We now have funding for nine new positions dedicated to minority graduate students in UMBC's Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology, a center that partners with NASA to study such issues as global warming and remote sensing. You can see that the Meyerhoff program is not being run by just one person, even though one person started this. Dr. Hrabowski has affected a lot of people in different departments across our campus.

The Undergraduate Scholars Program is named after the Meyerhoff family. They donated $500,000 to fund African American males from Baltimore City who were interested in studying science, engineering, or mathematics (SEM). That is how Dr. Hrabowski started this program in 1988. Today the program is entering its 14th year. After the first year, it was modified to include African American females. Today, our program is open to all high-achieving students.

Although the Meyerhoff undergraduate program was opened to all students in 1996, we still have 71 percent participation by African Americans, 14 percent by Asian students, and only 12 percent by Caucasians. UMBC has worked hard to make certain that the original focus would be maintained, in part by including activities that will be of interest mainly to students that care about underrepresentation in SEM fields.

There is a misconception when it comes to the issue of students entering the SEM pipeline. People say that there are very small numbers of undergraduate students who are interested in SEM when they enter in their freshman year. At UMBC, that is not what we see. For the fall of 2002 incoming class we have over 1,600 nominations for our Meyerhoff program. Ninety percent of these applicants are from Maryland. Of the 1,600 nominations, nearly 500 students have completed applications for only 50 available positions. Again, the majority of those 500 applications are from Maryland.

As can be seen by the numbers at UMBC, there is a large population of high school seniors who seek out college with an interest in SEM. These are talented, high-achieving minority students who are doing well in high school and who qualify for our program.

A study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, has shown that a large majority of students start college interested in SEM degrees. We believe that among those students there is a large pool of underrepresented minority students. The study found that many of the students lost interest or decided that the SEM areas were too hard very early on in their freshman year. Thus, the data clearly reveal that, although very large numbers of highly talented and motivated minority students with interests in SEM fields now exist in the United States, few are retained in the sciences.

The program that Dr. Hrabowski set up was designed to ensure that we recruit students that are likely to succeed and then make sure that we retain them in SEM. Once they get past their freshman year, large numbers of these talented underrepresented minority students want to begin working in research labs. At UMBC we have found that faculty welcome these students into their labs.

The Meyerhoff Scholars Program contains several major components: the Summer Bridge program, mentoring, summer research experience, monetary support (including room and board, tuition and fees, and a book allowance), cultural arts activities, academic advising, travel to present research at national scientific conferences, assistance with graduate and professional school placement, and staff support.

We have two different mentoring programs: research and professional mentors. Both on- and off-campus research experiences are required for all students. We also provide monetary support. It costs about $12,000 per student for the Summer Bridge program, $14,000 for every in-state student per academic year, and $20,000 for out-of-state students. We do not receive any tuition breaks for these students. That is one reason most of them are Maryland residents.

We actively recruit high school students who look promising in science. These are students that have high SAT scores and high GPAs. People criticize UMBC on this point because they believe that these students will make it anyway. What I will show you is, yes, we are taking the cream of the crop, but what we are doing differently is, keeping them in science.

So, these students represent the cream of the crop. We have two selection weekends in which applicants come to campus with their families and participate in numerous activities, including interviews with students, faculty, and administrators in the program and the university. After the selection weekends are over, the interviews and placement tests are tabulated. Then we decide who will be offered a scholarship. The students have to have a B average in their preparatory classes. The SAT scores have to be at least 1200 with a 600 math score.

Students also have to have a strong interest in pursuing doctoral professional degrees. We are emphasizing the Ph.D. above the M.D.1 degree, and Dr. Hrabowski will tell you that we think we have let our students down if they go to medical school, because we are trying to encourage them to think about creative research as a career.

In 2001, the national average of SAT scores for all students was 1020, for African American high school students it was 859, and for the Meyerhoff students it was 1310. That is a difference of over 450 points. As I stated earlier, we are taking the best and the brightest.

To determine if what we are doing works, we have a strong evaluation component to the program. Professor Ken Maton of the psychology department at UMBC is responsible for conducting these evaluations. He has determined that the Summer Bridge is perhaps the most critical piece of the program. The students enter the program and have to take 21 hours of classroom contact time during their six-week program. Let me reiterate, they are in class 21 hours a week.

Then students must participate in workshops on business etiquette, study skills, and time management, and they visit numerous science and technology workplaces in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area. Beyond that, they have to study. They receive seven credits for their participation in the Summer Bridge. These kids learn quickly how to study in groups, how to study independently, and how to support each other when they are studying and preparing for classes. Building that sense of camaraderie is absolutely essential.

Many of the students have had calculus before, but nevertheless, they have to retake it at the college level. This teaches them what it is going to take to succeed, not at their high school level, but to succeed at high levels in college. Dr. Hrabowski tells these kids that he does not expect them to make an A. He says that he expects them to make a high A. Also, he expects them to be running the tutorial center and helping other students. We have seen that this is indeed what happens.

This program has had a huge effect on the white faculty at our campus. That is something that I think is often overlooked when we think about minority training. In general, I think it is the white faculty that have to be educated as much as the minority students. None of us—now I am speaking for many of my white colleagues—want to think of ourselves as having prejudices. Nevertheless, we have been raised in white neighborhoods and generally live in white neighborhoods, so we do not understand many of the issues that the underrepresented minority students are facing. For example, some of the senior faculty in my department said that, prior to Dr. Hrabowski, they might occasionally see one or two underrepresented minority students in their upper-level undergraduate classes. When they were in the classes, they never spoke up, they often sat in the back of the class, and they generally—although not always— did not perform as well as most of the white students. Now we see large numbers of underrepresented minority students sitting in the front of the class, asking questions, and pushing the teachers. That has a huge affect on the perceptions of the white faculty. Educating the faculty needs to be a big part of what goes on, especially at majority research institutions.

As a part of the Meyerhoff Program, there is counseling and advising for students. In their freshman year, they are monitored on a weekly basis. If they do poorly on a test, the academic advisor is aware and addresses the situation. The students are paired with a tutor or study group, depending on their need. There are tutors available for students that need help; many times these are upper-level Meyerhoff students. The staff makes sure that the students do not get into academic trouble in their freshman year.

We have a great professional mentoring program that Dr. Hrabowski started, in which students are paired with underrepresented minority mentors in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area. These might be business leaders or faculty. Also, we have a research mentoring program for students, with faculty from all over the country. Isiah Warner from Louisiana State University (LSU) is a mentor for the Meyerhoff Program. People come from around the country to participate in what we are doing at UMBC because they want to help these students.

We have an interesting, high level of family involvement. The Parents Association contributes significant money, but even more than that, they contribute their time. Whenever there are big events, the parents will come and help do whatever it takes to make sure the event is successful. They are very active in the program, even after their child graduates. For example, three generations—grandparents, parents, and child—of one family have actively participated in the program.

All students are required to participate in a summer research internship off campus for at least one summer during their career. However, many students participate in more than one. Students work with people like Tom Cech, a Nobel laureate and the president of Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He has taken at least two Meyerhoff students in his lab for the past six years. There are international internships as well, in places such as England, France, and Rio de Janeiro. These students work in top research laboratories where they participate actively in a research project, many times resulting in publications.

As the students need more than just that limited exposure to research, we try to get as many as we can involved in an extended research experience on our campus. I can talk about my laboratory as an example. Last year I had 28 undergraduates working in my lab. In one year, a total of ten seniors graduated from my lab that collectively had 15 publications. Chelsea Stalling had a paper in Science, as did another undergraduate Meyerhoff student, Jill Walker, a couple of years earlier. Several of these students had first authorships on the covers of peer-reviewed journals, and they have all gone on to good places. Ryan and Brian Turner are from the Eastern Shore in Maryland and are currently conducting biomedical research in the M.D. program at Harvard. Chelsea Stalling is in the M.D./Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania. Rebecca Meier is in the M.D./Ph.D. program at Yale. Daniel Klein is working on his Ph.D. at Yale. And Chika Madu is at Washington University. These are just a few of the undergraduates who have worked in my laboratory.

One of the big questions people ask is, “Does this program really do what we say it does?” We have been accused of taking the cream of the crop and that these students would be likely to succeed at most other institutions as well. We have one study that has been completed and published. Admittedly, it is a couple of years old now, and we are working on another study that is not yet completed, but should be out next year. The populations that were compared were a sample from the first three educational cohorts of the (Meyerhoff) program, and a sample of students who qualified for our program, were accepted, and declined the offer to go elsewhere. These students generally were offered scholarships to top-level or Ivy League universities. They agreed that if they attended selection weekend and were made an offer—even if they declined—they would allow us to track them through college. The final populations compared were a sample of students who were at UMBC prior to the Meyerhoff Program and would have qualified for the program and students who entered UMBC in 1990-1992 who met Meyerhoff criteria. Note that all African Americans during this time were Meyerhoff students.

Figure 5.1 shows the graduation rates for students majoring in SEM fields at UMBC from 1990 to 1992. N = 31 for all groups. What you can see at UMBC is that 9 out of the 31 Caucasian students who have the same scores as the Meyerhoff students graduated with an SEM degree, and 14 of those students are not likely to graduate in the SEM field. This is typical of a standard white student. Forty-two percent of our Asian students graduate in the SEM fields. That is typical as well.

FIGURE 5.1. Graduation rates for students majoring in SEM fields from 1990 to 1992.


Graduation rates for students majoring in SEM fields from 1990 to 1992.

What you will notice with the Meyerhoff program is that of the 31 students in the sample, 91 percent graduated with an SEM degree. Today, more than 95 percent of the students that come into the program graduate with a science, engineering, or math degree.

If you look at this same Meyerhoff group in Figure 5.2, and look at those that go on to graduate education, you can see that the pre-Meyerhoff—minority students who meet the qualifications of the Meyerhoffs—only had 1 out of 31 who actually went on to a graduate program. Five went on to medical school. Now, for post-Meyerhoff, 12 students went on to graduate school and 8 did not. So, there is a substantial boost in the number that go to graduate school. Again, this is our first group of students. The latest data indicate that 85 percent of all the graduates go on to graduate or professional school.

FIGURE 5.2. Postgraduate education patterns before and after introduction of the Meyerhoff Program.


Postgraduate education patterns before and after introduction of the Meyerhoff Program.

What about the students who were offered a Meyerhoff scholarship and went elsewhere? The GPAs are similar, 3.16 for the Meyerhoff students and 2.90 for those who declined.

The students that turn us down do succeed in college and they do well, but what you can see is that, of those that go elsewhere, a much smaller fraction graduate in SEM.

How many go on? In Figure 5.3, comparing Meyerhoff students with those that went elsewhere, only 3 out of the 34 that went elsewhere, or 8 percent, went to graduate school. Twenty-six percent (N = 9) went to medical school. Of the Meyerhoff scholars, 46 percent went on to graduate school and 24 percent continued on to medical school.

FIGURE 5.3. Comparison of Meyerhoff students with Meyerhoff-qualified students who attended other institutions.


Comparison of Meyerhoff students with Meyerhoff-qualified students who attended other institutions.

There are many other quantitative indicators of success. The 12-year overall retention rate—this is retention in SEM, not retention in college—is greater than 95 percent. The average GPA is about 3.5 for all the current students.

In 1999 an American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology graduation survey was conducted in which universities and colleges were polled to find out how many biochemistry graduates they were turning out and what percentage of them were minority students. Their results showed that UMBC graduated 21 African American biochemistry bachelor's degrees in 1999. It turns out that the next closest place was the State University of New York at Stony Brook with six, and then the rest of the universities only had a few. This number may not be 100 percent accurate because some institutions did not respond to the survey. I assure you the UMBC number is correct, and it is very unlikely that any place else turned out this many.

Let me point out something else. Of these 21 African American graduates, only half, 11 of them, were Meyerhoff or Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) students, a program to aid minorities into graduate, Ph.D, and eventually biomedical fields. Due to the presence of the MARC, Meyerhoff, and other programs, we are seeing a trickle-up effect. We have high-achieving underrepresented minority students that are setting a high standard. They are changing the perceptions of white students and faculty. They are also changing the perceptions of their minority peers who are not in the program. That is one of the reasons why we are now seeing much larger numbers now, of minority students that are not part of this program graduating with degrees, in this case, in biochemistry.

Since 1993, we have graduated 234 students. We have over 200 students currently enrolled. Ninety-one students out of the total graduates are enrolled in Ph.D. programs, and 22 are in M.D./Ph.D. programs. So almost 60 percent of students out of this undergraduate program are now in Ph.D. programs.

As part of the undergraduate program, my involvement has been limited. I take large numbers of these students into my lab and they get involved in research. The students begin full-time research in the summer. They have to commit to one year so that their research experience is extensive. That is how most of them can end up publishing papers. That is why graduate students and postdocs are willing to work with these students; they know that the students are going to be there for more than just a few weeks in the summer, and they know that the students are going to make a substantial contribution.

We started a graduate program in 1996 with a Minority Biomedical Research Support and IMSD grant through the NIH. A faculty member who is no longer at UMBC, Catherine Fenselau, began this program. In 1998 she moved to the University of Maryland at College Park and I took over the program. The graduate program is modeled after the Meyerhoff undergraduate program in order to boost our minority graduate output. These are the key elements. We have an extensive outreach program. Not only do we give the usual talks at universities, but we also have an undergraduate summer training program. We bring in up to 15 undergraduates for the summer from all over the country. This year we have had more than 70 applications for 15 slots. Last year, we had not quite 60 applications. Of those that came, the average GPA of the students that came over the summer was 3.8.

We are getting very talented students who are interested in summer undergraduate research at UMBC. I would like to point out that 10-20 percent of the students that come as part of our summer program end up coming to us for graduate school. As an outreach tool and a potential recruiting tool, this summer program has been very effective.

We also have a Graduate Summer Bridge program. The graduate students who are accepted to the program come the summer before the academic year and participate in a research rotation and take a course in technical writing. The content of the technical writing course, in and of itself, is not the most important thing. These students, who span five different disciplines—engineering, psychology, chemistry, biochemistry, and biology—work together in this class on group projects and presentations and form a tight bond with each other. This is very helpful for providing peer support throughout the year when they are back in their own academic departments and generally are more isolated from their minority peers.

During the academic year, monthly meetings are held where the students give seminars about their research and learn how to give a good seminar. Their peers are responsible for critiquing them on both the science and their presentation skills. This is important to build their confidence for research presentations at national meetings for which we provide support.

Of significance for this program is that all of these things happen because the students want them to happen. When Dr. Hrabowski asked me to take over because Catherine Fenselau left, I was a bit nervous. In fact, I met with the students. There was a small number of students, only six at the time. I said, “Look, I am a white guy who was raised in the south. I haven't really been doing this kind of thing. You need to tell me what it is going to take to develop a good graduate program.”

Collectively we came up with these items. Each year we reevaluate and modify the program to make it more effective. It has had a very positive effect. One of the things that the students wanted to do, and it has worked out great, was provide support to bring research faculty to UMBC from other universities to give scientific presentations. The student will pick out a faculty member from somewhere around the country that will be important for their career, possibly to complete a postdoc with them. We try to bring underrepresented minority faculty, but this is not mandatory. The faculty member will come to campus and give the department seminar. Now we have got a prominent minority faculty member going around to meet UMBC faculty in half-hour intervals. Remember, we are a white institution. This has had a big positive effect.

Isiah Warner came once and gave the talk. I was surprised because, even at UMBC with a black president and all the changes that have been taking place, after his talk I heard a white student say, “Wow, I didn't realize that African American scientists were doing those sorts of things.” It was surprising. It also brought home the point that, in addition to educating the students in the program, you need to educate the nonminority faculty and students.

For the first three years of our graduate program, we struggled having only two, three, and three applications for 1996, 1997, and 1998, respectively. During those years we gave back several hundred thousand dollars to the NIH that was unspent. In 1999, after the development of a website and a full-time program coordinator, the applications went up to 27 for four available positions. As of right now we have 42 applications to our program for ten available slots. These are qualified applicants. We now have to look for ways to support more of these interested students, if not all of them.

For the Summer Biomedical Training Program, we have over 70 applications for our summer program. In addition to filtering through our graduate applications, we are also filtering through the undergraduate applications just for the summer. We have had 38 participants from 12 universities so far in the program, just over the past four years.

Seventy-nine percent of the undergraduates that have come through our summer training program have gone on to graduate or enroll in professional schools. Of the participants, 20 percent have applied to UMBC with 14 percent attending UMBC for graduate school. As an outreach program, it is working very well.

The total enrollment by department over the years has grown tremendously. We have 42 applications for this fall. We are expecting to have more than 30 minority graduate students in our program this fall.

For retention, pre-IMSD and post-IMSD, we had five total minority students in our four graduate programs before the IMSD program. Of those five, two minority students graduated with Ph.D.s from UMBC in the biomedical sciences.

To date, the graduate program has had 27 students enrolled and 21 retained. That is a retention rate of just under 80 percent. That retention rate is the same as the average retention rate in general for the participating departments. We would be happier if we were retaining all of our students, but it is just not going to happen. Some of the students do struggle. I should point out, however, that of these students who left, two of them left in good standing. One of them had a 4.0 GPA and a 2000 GRE score, but he left for family and personal reasons. Another student had just passed her qualifying exams and also had high grades. The numbers that are dropping for lack of performance are actually much less than 20 percent.

Figure 5.4 compares the number of underrepresented minority graduate students that were in the department before the IMSD graduate program and after the graduate program.

FIGURE 5.4. Growth in numbers of underrepresented minority graduate students from 1995 to 2001.


Growth in numbers of underrepresented minority graduate students from 1995 to 2001.

In biology there were zero underrepresented minority students. Now we have five, with four of our new applicants interested in biology. In chemistry, we had one. We now have ten minority graduate students. Psychology has always done better. They had eight. We now have 15. Engineering had zero minority graduate students. We now have three.

We have a retreat every summer where we get together as a group after all the incoming students have had a chance to take their class and commiserate and do their research rotation. We all get together. We go out to a place in Pennsylvania and we have seminars and we go rafting.

To summarize, it is now clear that large numbers of talented, high-achieving, and motivated underrepresented minority students are now available in high schools who have interests in the SEM fields. Although large numbers enter college with SEM interests, few are retained in the sciences. The Meyerhoff undergraduate program is a replicable program that could have a substantial national effect if reproduced and implemented more broadly. Minority participation at the graduate level can also be increased by increasing outreach efforts, mainly with minority-serving colleges, and by modernizing application and evaluation practices that generally lead to the disqualification of talented minority applicants.


John M. Schwab, National Institutes of Health: What is your response to those who would rather cynically claim that the only reason this program works is because of Dr. Hrabowski?

Michael F. Summers: I would say that the only reason it started is because of Dr. Hrabowski. In my opinion, federal agencies should find people who are going to make a difference and support them, and support them big if they can. I think supporting programs where there can be a catalytic effect by a dynamic and energetic leader has the potential to produce a substantially larger effect compared with simply supporting a program with three students a year. I strongly believe that supporting people like Dr. Hrabowski will have, and is having, a much bigger bang for the buck.

Isiah M. Warner, Louisiana State University: Ten years from now, we will know whether it is strictly because of Dr. Hrabowski. We are seeking funding right now to start a Meyerhoff-like program at LSU. If we are successful, it will show that it can be replicated and it is not just Dr. Hrabowski. I am confident that it is not just him. Dr. Hrabowski, however, has set into place some factors, such as a change in attitude, that will go on whether he is there or not.

I just heard something recently, and it is astounding to me if it is true. UMBC is 60 percent white, 15 percent African American, 15 percent Asian, and 10 percent others. I heard that in the entering freshman class, the students with the highest SATs and the highest GPAs were the African Americans.

Michael F. Summers: That is right.

Isiah M. Warner: That is incredible for this to occur at a majority campus. You have transformed a majority school into an environment where all students can learn. That is incredible.

Michael F. Summers: I should also point out that we are using your graduate program as our model as well. So, it works both ways. We are using the best programs in the nation as models.

C. Reynold Verret, Clark Atlanta University: Are your students preselected to receive the tuition and scholarships available, or is that done after the fact?

In some programs it seems like the financial inducements tend to cause students to select to become science majors and it seems that others have already selected themselves as science or engineering-oriented students. How do you make that distinction in your program?

Michael F. Summers: We do say up front that we are specifically supporting science, people who are interested in SEM and people who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. They may be interested in the M.D./Ph.D. or they may be interested in medicine, but they are willing to give serious thought to a Ph.D.

C. Reynold Verrett: How do you select them? Are they nominated?

Michael F. Summers: We have partnerships with all the high schools that have a good record. We send nomination forms to the teachers that we have good relationships with. These teachers write down students' names and send them to us. Then we have a staff that goes after those kids and their families to say, “Hey, apply to our program.” We also pay money to testing programs to find out who is doing well on exams. We do anything you can imagine to find these smart kids and expose them to our program.

In two weeks, I am going to be giving a talk to juniors in high school and their parents. These are the kids that Dr. Hrabowski and the staff have identified already at the high school sophomore year, and we invite them to campus to expose them to our program. We tell the students and their parents that they do not have to wait until they have their postdoc and start at a faculty postion before they make a serious contribution in science. They can do it as an undergraduate. I give them examples of students that have done that.

We start early going after these students. A lot of them are interested in medicine, and a lot of them get converted along the way.

Michael P. Doyle, Research Corporation: You have got a wonderful program. I think it is a model for the nation.

The question that needs to be addressed in part, I think, is the cost. It is not just financial cost. You have already stated that it takes $12,000 for the Bridge Program, $14,000 in tuition alone during the academic year. What are the added costs that have been put into place that were not there before the Meyerhoff Program existed, and what costs in terms of faculty time and administrative efforts are put in? How much of an incremental cost is this to make something really work right?

Michael F. Summers: I do not have those figures. There probably are extra costs, but I doubt they amount to a whole lot more on a per student basis.

In terms of the commitment of the faculty, I am finding myself spending more and more time at these kinds of meetings. If a faculty member does not know it up front, he or she learns quickly that if you take one of these undergraduates over the summer and spend some time with them, there is a good chance that they are going to come back and work in your lab. The faculty buy in very quickly.

I will tell you another interesting fact. Every year I have to go to Howard Hughes Medical Institute for a meeting. We have science meetings in Chevy Chase and I have to present my work. At the end of every talk, I show pictures of these students to the group, and these Hughes scientists ask me: “How can I get those kids in my lab?” They would love to have the pipeline that I have.

I am in a phenomenal situation. I can sit at my desk and have 4.0 GPA minority students walking into my office, stating, “I want to do research.” The recruiting efforts and the Summer Bridge program are set up and run by the administration. These programs ensure that the students are successful during their freshman year. Then I get them and help develop their interest in research.

I am convinced that if any college or university administration does a good job of outreach, getting these kids to campus, supporting them, and making sure that they stay in science in their first semester, the faculty will respond positively and they will have a modeled UMBC. There is no reason we would be any different from most other places.

Robert L. Lichter, The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation: I want to get back to Dr. Hrabowski for a second and take a slightly different tack on this, suggest something slightly different.

The program did require Dr. Hrabowski and it continues to require the characteristic that he brought, which you clearly evidence here: a passion and a commitment. But sustaining this program, the direct and indirect costs of which are expensive, has to reflect the priority that an institution sets. That means that, if you are going to make that investment there, you will not invest in something else, like big-time athletics, although you do pretty good at big-time athletics.

Michael F. Summers: Not us. No, we are the other campus.

Robert L. Lichter: Small-time athletics then. The point is that this program is an institutional priority. Individuals set priorities and, hence, Dr. Hrabowski had to come in and set them. He had to convey to the faculty and students the importance of this program. That is the personal engagement that is required, embracing of the importance of this issue.

I have the privilege of serving on the advisory committee to the Meyerhoff Program. And if anyone is ever in doubt about the value and the accomplishments of this program, just go and talk to those students. They will blow you away. If they are the future, the future is in really good hands.

Michael F. Summers: This program is working in Maryland, and there must be a large population of really bright kids all over this country that start out interested in science and math. There are places that are doing similar things. In fact, we have learned from other places. If more places were doing what Dr.Hrabowski has done, it would make a big difference. To answer your point about Dr. Hrabowski, there was only one Hank Aaron. When Hank Aaron retires, somebody else is there that can not wait to step up in the cleanup position, and there are a lot of people at UMBC who want to do that.

Now, nobody is going to replace Dr. Hrabowski when he decides to leave, but there are a lot of people that have already bought into what we are doing. Whether they stay at UMBC or whether they go someplace else, it is now in their blood.

Iona Black, Yale University: We have a program at Yale called the Stars Program that we have been operating for six years. We operate on a much smaller scale, but we are now tracking students just as you have. I think that our results are going to be just as grand as yours. We have smaller numbers, which is approximately 20 selected during the academic year and an additional number (20-25) selected during the summer. Our cost is $10,000 for the whole academic year. So, it can proceed on a different type of scale.

Our first graduates are now third-year graduate students and medical students. Most are M.D./Ph.D. or M.D. joint degree, and there is an increasing number of Ph.D.s in science programs. I think it is nice to know that I am following in the right path, and I am now using your program as the example for the graduate program. Hopefully, that will work. So, I just want to say thank you.

Michael F. Summers: Thank you. I should tell you that Tom Steitz at Yale told me two years ago that Yale made more offers for their biophysics graduate programs to students from UMBC than from any other place. These were all Meyerhoff students. Yale is clearly interested.

Isai T. Urasa, Hampton University: What happens to those students who are not accepted into the Meyerhoff Program? Do they still matriculate at UMBC or do they seek opportunities elsewhere?

Michael F. Summers: I do not have any data on that.

Isai T. Urasa: I see an opportunity here for networking for programs similar to the one at UMBC.

Hampton University has had a program for the past 15 years that has been funded by the Office of Naval Research. It has the same characteristics as your program, and I think the point here is that there are possibilities of networking to maximize our efforts in recruiting for these programs.

Michael F. Summers: I agree.

Billy Joe Evans, University of Michigan: I am a bit concerned about some of what I have been able to digest, and maybe I am not digesting it.

I understand some of the Meyerhoff undergraduate program. It is quite clear that well-prepared, high-achieving, African American students go to college and something happens. The expectation that they will succeed is frequently not borne out. I think for the Meyerhoff Program to have that kind of success is certainly unique. However, I do not quite understand the graduate program. I am not aware that the attrition rate for African Americans, for example, at graduate schools is exceptionally high or different from what we would have projected.

My question is, what particular issue were you addressing with the graduate program?

The other question I have concerns the situation in our public school system—where the great majority, I believe, of African Americans are found. How many 3.9ers or 3.8ers are there yet to be identified, if one is going to replicate this program elsewhere? I would argue that we may have already reached saturation.

Michael F. Summers: Maybe in Maryland, but I doubt in Detroit.

Clifton A. Poodry, National Institutes of Health: The attrition rate among minorities is twice the rate as among nonminorities in graduate school.

Michael F. Summers: Right, in graduate school. We do not have that problem.

Billy Joe Evans: We need to think specifically about the chemical side of graduate schools. I am concerned about chemistry, and a high attrition rate for minorities is not my experience. My 31 years experience at Michigan is that the attrition rate for minority students is about the same as for majority students.

Michael F. Summers: My concern was that we had no minority students in three of our departments. That was five years ago. Now we have faculty that are mentoring students.

The problems, I think, at the graduate level are much, much different, in my opinion, than at the undergraduate level. At the graduate level, you do have a smaller pool. The small pool of minority students who are interested in graduate school and who are well prepared tend to get offers to go to graduate schools at Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Duke, and all the top places. We have a difficult time recruiting top minority graduate students. So, we have to try to build an environment that makes it more attractive to them.

The other big hurdle that we had to overcome is that we had to get faculty to stop being lazy, to sit down at one committee meeting and just look at GRE scores and say, well, we are going to populate our department with students from India, China, or other places. This is one of the big things we have taken from your program, to take care of business at home. We find that there are lots of diamonds in the rough.

I actually was educated in a junior college and small places. I am one of these slow growers. So, there are people that will be ready for college later and ready for graduate school later that will be overlooked by the Ivy League. Those are the ones that we are trying to find. So, we have different issues at the graduate level. Dr. Hrabowski does not like to hear this, because he wants all the students to have high scores.

We have to get faculty to look at other criteria, and to support the students in every way possible. If we support students to the best of our ability and they still do not qualify, then we will have to let them go.

William M. Jackson, University of California, Davis: I think the Meyerhoff program is outstanding. I agree with you; Dr. Hrabowski started it. I also agree, from my own experience of being there, that very enthusiastic faculty populate it. I think one of the key issues here is having a good staff, and that is one of the expensive items in having such a program.

I have managed an undergraduate program with NSF help. We pay for a lot of the staff out of the university's money. In fact, the program is continuing with the assistance of the university's money. The amount of money that is spent on the student, not counting tuition but just to pay the students for the summer, is about $6,000 per year. You do need a lot of money.

You need to do all these things in addition to other things that are sometimes ingrained in the university setting like student services. What you have to do, and what I think Dr. Hrabowski did, was to integrate the faculty with those student services. We have very separated faculty and student services in our universities. The faculty are often interested in working with the students, but they do not get to talk to the people in the student services. So, they go off on their own. The kind of program in which you integrate student services and faculty is the kind that can make a difference.

I am not sure that there are many African American students that you could pull from a pool like you have talked about. I know in California there are not many African Americans in the pool of graduating seniors. I think we did a count, and there are roughly only about 2,000 African American students who graduate from high schools every year in California. You are much better off in Maryland because of the population distribution.

Certainly, the kind of thing that is done to keep African American students in science at UMBC is the kind of thing that we should be doing for all students in science. We need students in science. That is why we have to get exceptions to the immigration policy. I am not against bringing foreign students over here. My career would not have been what it was if I had not had foreign postdocs and graduate students. But we should not have to go to that extreme. We are only going to that extreme because we are not doing the kind of thing that we are talking about here.

That is an indictment on chemistry. I am talking about chemistry now. Chemistry gets more students in that first general chemistry course than any other discipline. We get them before the biologists do. We should be converting a lot of those students into chemistry. That is the issue, if you really want to look at it, not just minority students, but white students, women students, all kinds of students.

Michael F. Summers: I agree with every point you said.

E. Kent Barefield, Georgia Institute of Technology: There are a lot of African American students who graduate from Georgia Tech. Most are engineers; I am sorry to say there are not as many in the sciences. The program is much like the one that you described, except that the students do not have scholarships. They are paying their own way. There is a group of people that are very dedicated to seeing that these students have an environment that is nurturing when they are starting out, and they maintain that.

It has all the elements that you suggest, and maybe you got some of those from us. The students do have the option to come in the summer, and they track those that do and those that do not. However, the students that come in the summer and take advantage of what we call the Challenge Program will do better academically. This propagates through the institution. Although we do not have as many minority undergraduate chemistry majors, we are doing quite well at the Ph.D. level.

This year we graduated five minority students, which is not a large number, but it is 20 percent of our output. I think all of them, or all but one, are African American. There is a culture that gets built within the institution. I have to say one more thing, because Dr. Gillyard speared us a little bit this morning (Chapter 3). The numbers of students that we put out at the end are much greater than what we take in as freshman—actually, because of transfer students and those in 3/2 programs—and they contribute enormously to the success of the institution in training African American students in particular. So, that is very important. We do a lot to bring them in as first-time students as well.

James D. Burke, Rohm and Haas: I will be brief. Excellent talk. I think the Meyerhoff Program is something that should be exported to every major metropolitan area, because your program works. I think it is not just because you have a charismatic leader like Freeman Hrabowski. More important, your faculty seems to have taken it on as a mission. I think that is more important than having a very public leader—not that you do not want both. It is the faculty who see the students day after day and who influence them day by day. If the faculty wants the Meyerhoff Program to succeed, it will; and if the faculty do not want it to succeed, it will not.

Another point: Obviously there are costs associated with a Meyerhoff Program or any other kind of program. However, when you compare the differential unit cost between providing academic excellence for the students and merely supporting academic mediocrity or failure, it is only an incremental difference. Further, when you compare the unit costs of supporting a Meyerhoff student with the social costs of supporting a failed human being, fully integrated over a lifetime, there is no comparison.

Education is the great equalizer in this country. We need to make this quality of education more widely available: first, where it is most needed, and then use that model to upgrade all education, just as Professor Jackson said. We should not by default have to go outside the current educational model to ensure educational excellence for minorities. It is good to be able to go outside if we choose to do so, but not because we have to.

Michael F. Summers: I do not think that the Meyerhoff model is the model that would necessarily fit everywhere. There are other innovative models that would work better in other locations. However, I certainly think the Meyerhoff model could be put in many places, and it could have a big effect.

James D. Burke: I agree with you. I was not referring to cloning the Meyerhoff Program. It is an exemplar that people can tailor to suit their needs. It is a wonderful program, and I am glad you shared this with us.



The College Board, 2001 National Report, Princeton, NJ.

Copyright © 2003, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK36319


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