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Leaks in Diversity of STEM Pipeline

A number of initiatives are aimed at getting students to enter the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics pipeline, but a pair of researchers writes at the Huffington Post that the "leaks and backflows" still need to be addressed, especially for underrepresented minorities.

"Built into this pipeline metaphor is the assumption that the pipeline lays flat and that the momentum of every individual going through is unchanged," Brown University's Andrew Campbell and Stacy-ann Allen-Ramdial write. "The data tell a different story."

In 2000, about a third of students entering college were interested in STEM majors, but underrepresented minorities were less likely to graduate with a STEM degree, Campbell and Allen-Ramdial found. After college, that leakage continued as only slightly more than 12 percent of recipients of STEM doctoral degrees are from underrepresented minorities.

To staunch this flow, Campbell and Allen-Ramdial suggest that graduate research institutions partner with undergraduate-focused minority-serving institutions to help identify and close gaps in the curriculum so that undergrads from those institutions are well-prepared for graduate school. At the same time, such partnerships will enable the graduate institutions to develop cultural competencies, the researchers say.

"Challenges of culture and practice are among the most difficult to resolve. Given the financial investments made to date, it is clear that more money alone will not address the challenge of achieving STEM diversity," Campbell and Allen-Ramdial add. "More is required."