Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


Making Diversity a Value, and Not an Event

• May 10, 2009 • 10:50 PM

Tom Price is blogging for Miller-McCune.com from the 3rd annual Conference on Understanding Interventions That Broaden Participation in Research Careers.

Creating an academic diversity program is one thing. But how do you institutionalize it as an integral part of the university, so that it will thrive over the long term?

Three long-standing diversity programs share a large number of attributes that provide clues to their success, three speakers revealed at a conference on diversity in science which ended Saturday.

They include strong support from top campus leadership, a good fit with the university’s overall mission, constant evaluation with wide dissemination of results, campus-wide acceptance, support from beyond the campus, and a willingness to evolve.

Freeman Hrabowski III, a Ph.D. mathematician, founded the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in 1988, with financial support from Baltimore County philanthropists Robert and Jane Meyerhoff. Four years later, Hrabowski became university president, a post he still holds.

Hrabowski’s role as the Meyerhoff Scholars’ champion has been enormously important to the program’s continuing success, said Kenneth Maton, a UMBC psychology professor who studies minority student achievement.

The program, created to prepare young African American men for scientific research careers, fits perfectly with the mission of the university, which was established in 1966 to be a diverse institution, Maton said. (Hrabowski himself is African American.)

Need for the program was demonstrated by data that showed minority students tended to perform poorly in scientific studies, he said. When large proportions of Meyerhoff scholars went on to earn Ph.D.s, support for the program was solidified.

The program expanded over time, so it now admits male and female science and engineering students of any race who express interest in the advancement of minorities in those fields. Admitting whites helped to deflect challenges to the program amid what Maton termed the “anti-affirmative-action climate” in the 1990s.

The University of Michigan’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program enrolled 14 minority students in 1989, later added women and now is open to all students, said Cinda-Sue Davis, director of the university’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program. Most of the students are in science, technology, engineering or math.

The program garners support on and off campus because the state is trying to transform its struggling manufacturing economy into a “knowledge economy,” she said. Google co-founder Larry Page, a Michigan alumnus, is a vocal proponent of improving education in the state, she said.

Evaluation has been the most important component of the program’s success, she added.

“It’s important to document success,” agreed Michael Leibowitz, director of graduate academic diversity for the biomedical sciences graduate school at New Jersey’s University of Medicine and Dentistry. “Assessment, monitoring and evaluation are critical to establishing the program as a national model and providing feedback to staff.

Leibowitz’s school offers a growing suite of support services to students, he said. Initially aimed at minorities, the services now are open to all students, which helped build campus-wide support for diversity efforts, he added.

Tom Price
Tom Price is a Washington-based freelance writer who focuses on public affairs, business, technology and education. Previously he was a correspondent in the Cox Newspapers Washington bureau and chief politics writer for the Cox papers in Dayton. He is author or co-author of five books, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, Rolling Stone, CQ Researcher and other publications.

More From Tom Price

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

November 25 • 12:00 PM

Why Did Doctors Stop Giving Women Orgasms?

You can thank the rise of the vibrator for that, according to technology historian Rachel Maines.


November 25 • 10:08 AM

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.


November 25 • 10:00 AM

If It’s Yellow, Seriously, Let It Mellow

If you actually care about water and the future of the species, you’ll think twice about flushing.


November 25 • 8:00 AM

Sometimes You Should Just Say No to Surgery

The introduction of national thyroid cancer screening in South Korea led to a 15-fold increase in diagnoses and a corresponding explosion of operations—but no difference in mortality rates. This is a prime example of over-diagnosis that’s contributing to bloated health care costs.



November 25 • 6:00 AM

The Long War Between Highbrow and Lowbrow

Despise The Avengers? Loathe the snobs who despise The Avengers? You’re not the first.


November 25 • 4:00 AM

Are Women More Open to Sex Than They Admit?

New research questions the conventional wisdom that men overestimate women’s level of sexual interest in them.


November 25 • 2:00 AM

The Geography of Innovation, or, Why Almost All Japanese People Hate Root Beer

Innovation is not a product of population density, but of something else entirely.


November 24 • 4:00 PM

Federal Reserve Announces Sweeping Review of Its Big Bank Oversight

The Federal Reserve Board wants to look at whether the views of examiners are being heard by higher-ups.



November 24 • 2:00 PM

That Catcalling Video Is a Reminder of Why Research Methods Are So Important

If your methods aren’t sound then neither are your findings.


November 24 • 12:00 PM

Yes, Republicans Can Still Win the White House

If the economy in 2016 is where it was in 2012 or better, Democrats will likely retain the White House. If not, well….


November 24 • 11:36 AM

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it’s relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.


November 24 • 10:00 AM

Why Are Patients Drawn to Certain Doctors?

We look for an emotional fit between our physicians and ourselves—and right now, that’s the best we can do.


November 24 • 8:00 AM

Why Do We Elect Corrupt Politicians?

Voters, it seems, are willing to forgive—over and over again—dishonest yet beloved politicians if they think the job is still getting done.



November 24 • 6:00 AM

They Steal Babies, Don’t They?

Ethiopia, the Hague, and the rise and fall of international adoption. An exclusive investigation of internal U.S. State Department documents describing how humanitarian adoptions metastasized into a mini-industry shot through with fraud, becoming a source of income for unscrupulous orphanages, government officials, and shady operators—and was then reined back in through diplomacy, regulation, and a brand-new federal law.


November 24 • 4:00 AM

Nudging Drivers, and Pedestrians, Into Better Behavior

Daniel Pink’s new series, Crowd Control, premieres tonight on the National Geographic Channel.


November 21 • 4:00 PM

Why Are America’s Poorest Toddlers Being Over-Prescribed ADHD Drugs?

Against all medical guidelines, children who are two and three years old are getting diagnosed with ADHD and treated with Adderall and other stimulants. It may be shocking, but it’s perfectly legal.



November 21 • 2:00 PM

The Best Moms Let Mess Happen

That’s the message of a Bounty commercial that reminds this sociologist of Sharon Hays’ work on “the ideology of intensive motherhood.”


November 21 • 12:00 PM

Eating Disorders Are Not Just for Women

Men, like women, are affected by our cultural preoccupation with thinness. And refusing to recognize that only makes things worse.


November 21 • 10:00 AM

Queens of the South

Inside Asheville, North Carolina’s 7th annual Miss Gay Latina pageant.


November 21 • 9:12 AM

‘Shirtstorm’ and Sexism in Science

Following the recent T-shirt controversy, it’s clear that sexism in science persists. But the forces driving the gender gap are still being debated.


November 21 • 8:00 AM

What Makes a Film Successful in 2014?

Domestic box office earnings are no longer a reliable metric.


Follow us


Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it's relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.

Sufferers of Social Anxiety Disorder, Your Friends Like You

The first study of friends' perceptions suggest they know something's off with their pals but like them just the same.

Standing Up for My Group by Kicking Yours

Members of a minority ethnic group are less likely to express support for gay equality if they believe their own group suffers from discrimination.

How Old Brains Learn New Tricks

A new study shows that the neural plasticity needed for learning doesn't vanish as we age—it just moves.

The Big One

One in two United States senators and two in five House members who left office between 1998 and 2004 became lobbyists. November/December 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.