Rutgers University—Newark has recently been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that is the first ever to support underrepresented minority students in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) Ph.D. programs as part of its Bridges to the Doctorate program, according to Rutgers News.
The program is part of the Garden State-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (GS-LSAMP) initiative, also funded by the NSF. For 10 years, the initiative has allowed thousands of minority students to pursue STEM degrees from the University and other schools in the state. Now, it is looking to give that same support to graduate students.
“Fifteen years ago, the NSF started Bridges to Doctorate as part of LSAMP, and while the latter gets underrepresented minority students into STEM, the ultimate goal was to get more graduate degrees among these students,” said professor Alexander Gates, executive director of the GS-LSAMP. “This grant to establish Bridges to Doctorate at RU-N will be a real game-changer for our graduate programs.”
The award gives an annual stipend of $32,000, along with tuition, to 12 graduate students for the first two years of their time on campus starting fall of next year. The stipend also extends to the scientific departments in order to allow them to continue supporting the doctoral candidates for an additional three years, through fellowships and teaching assistantships.
"If we are going to really change the culture in the U.S., we need underrepresented professors who can mentor the next generation. So, this is really exciting," Gates said. “This will let us draw from a great nationwide applicant pool for STEM graduate programs at RU-N."
The initiative will designate these incoming doctoral students as a cohort, in order to build a community and support network for them along with financial support. Gates said he would develop workshops covering topics such as dissertation writing and the post-doctorate application process.
These doctoral candidates will also mentor LSAMP undergraduates by taking them on as research assistants, giving lectures at conferences and participating in the Newark STEAM Coalition. Gates also hopes that these candidates will meet with minority STEM faculty members at other schools part of the GS-LAMP program.
“We’ve benefited greatly from students from our LSAMP succeeding elsewhere in the Bridges to Doctorate program,” Gates said. “To be able to get great students working together and changing the equation in our graduate school here is crucial."
The GS-LSAMP consortium, which has more than 3,000 students currently participating, is made up of Kean University, New Jersey City University, Essex County College, Montclair State University, Fairleigh Dickinson University—Teaneck, William Paterson University, Rutgers University—New Brunswick and New Jersey Institute of Technology, as well as several community colleges through the Northern New Jersey Bridges to Baccalaureate Alliance (NNJ-B2B). Of the students, 150 are from Rutgers—Newark.
The overall Bridges to the Doctorate program was started in 2004 and also funds schools, as well as provides cohorts and dollar awards for students. The program has grown to total more than $14 million for the academic cycle between 2019 and 2021. This year is the first that Rutgers—Newark is eligible.
“It’s really an important component of the larger LSAMP initiative,” Gates said. “One we’re very proud to now be a part of.”