PhD bridge programmes as engines for access, diversity and inclusion

Abstract

The lack of diversity in physics and astronomy PhD programmes is well known but has not improved despite decades of efforts. PhD bridge programmes provide an asset-based model to help overcome the societal and disciplinary obstacles to improving access and inclusion for students from underrepresented groups and are beginning to show some success. We describe several well-known PhD bridge programmes in the United States and discuss lessons learned from their experiences. Many of these lessons can be extended more broadly to physics and astronomy PhD programmes to increase access, diversity and inclusion.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Cal-Bridge South Cohort 5.

Cal-Bridge Program

References

  1. 1.

    Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, 2019); https://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/webcaspar/

  2. 2.

    First-Generation Students in Higher Education (PNPI, 2018).

  3. 3.

    Posselt, J. Inside Graduate Admissions: Merit, Diversity, and Faculty Gatekeeping (Harvard University Press, 2016).

  4. 4.

    Posselt, J. R. Trust networks: a new perspective on pedigree and the ambiguities of admissions. Rev. Higher Educ. 41, 497–521 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Miller, C. & Stassun, K. Nature 510, 303–304 (2014).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Bastedo, M. N. & Jaquette, O. Running in place: low-income students and the dynamics of higher education stratification. Educ. Eval. Policy Anal. 33, 318–339 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Langin, K. A wave of graduate programs drops the GRE application requirement. Science Magazine (29 May 2019); https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2019/05/wave-graduate-programs-drop-gre-application-requirement

  8. 8.

    Miller, C. W., Zwickl, B. M., Posselt, J. R., Silvestrini, R. T. & Hodapp, T. Typical physics Ph.D. admissions criteria limit access to underrepresented groups but fail to predict doctoral completion. Sci. Adv. 5, eaat7550 (2019).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Hall, J. D., O’Connell, A. B. & Cook, J. G. Predictors of student productivity in biomedical graduate school applications. PLoS One 12, e0169121 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Potvin, G., Chari, D. & Hodapp, T. Investigating approaches to diversity in a national survey of physics doctoral degree programs: the graduate admissions landscape. Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 13, 020142 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Rudolph, A. L. Cal-Bridge: creating pathways to the PhD for underrepresented students in physics and astronomy. Phys. Today 72, 50–57 (2019). 10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Posselt, J. R. & Grodsky, E. Graduate education and social stratification. Annu. Rev. Sociol. 43, 353–378 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Pyne, J. & Grodsky, E. Inequality and opportunity in a perfect storm of graduate student debt. Sociol. Educ. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038040719876245 (2018).

  14. 14.

    Milkman, K. L., Akinola, M. & Chugh, D. What happens before? A field experiment exploring how pay and representation differentially shape bias on the pathway into organizations. J. Appl. Psychol. 100, 1678 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Brunsma, D. L., Embrick, D. G. & Shin, J. H. Graduate students of color: race, racism, and mentoring in the white waters of academia. Sociol. Race Ethnic. 3, 1–13 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Stassun, K. G. et al. Am. J. Phys. 79, 374–379 (2011).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads (The National Academies, 2011).

  18. 18.

    Stassun, K. G. Mercury. 34, 22–27 (2005).

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Hodapp, T. & Woodle, K. S. Phys. Today 70, 50–56 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Sowell, R. S., Zhang, T. & Redd, K. Completion and Attrition: Analysis of Baseline Program Data from the Ph.D. Completion Project (Council of Graduate Schools 2008).

  21. 21.

    Rudolph, A. et al. Final report of the 2018 AAS task force on diversity and inclusion in astronomy graduate education. Bull. Am. Astron. Soc. (2019).

  22. 22.

    Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L. & Keyes, C. L. in Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived (American Psychological Association, 2003)

  23. 23.

    Ely, R. J., Padavic, I. & Thomas, D. A. Organization Studies. 33, 341–362 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Norman, D. et al. in Seeking Solutions: Maximizing American Talent by Advancing Women of Color in Academia: Summary of a Conference (The National Academies, 2013).

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

All authors contributed equally to this work.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alexander L. Rudolph.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Rudolph, A.L., Holley-Bockelmann, K. & Posselt, J. PhD bridge programmes as engines for access, diversity and inclusion. Nat Astron 3, 1080–1085 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-019-0962-1

Download citation