New program funds fellowships for diverse PhD students

In order to better prepare graduate students from diverse backgrounds for academic careers, Stanford has developed a $4.5 million program to provide two-year fellowships, faculty mentors and seminars on the academic profession to 36 doctoral candidates over the next four years.

The new program, known as the DARE—for Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence—Fellowship Program, also includes $1 million to fund four fellows to serve one-year acting assistant professor appointments after completing the program and their PhDs.

The aim of the program is to help advanced doctoral students—those in the last two years of their program—cultivate communication and leadership skills, build confidence, establish mentoring networks and, ultimately, launch successful careers at colleges and universities.

"Stanford is not just striving for faculty diversity," said Patricia J. Gumport, vice provost for graduate education, who will oversee and evaluate the program. "We are investing in it."

Stanford defines diversity broadly, so the DARE program will consider women in the natural sciences and engineering; underrepresented racial and ethnic minority students; first-generation college students; gay, lesbian and transgender students; disabled students; and others whose backgrounds and experiences bring unique perspectives to campus.

"Truly great universities require a diverse community of scholars with a breadth of backgrounds and experiences," said Provost John Etchemendy. "This program will provide us with innovative tools to address one of the most significant challenges facing not just Stanford but most of the nation's colleges and universities in the 21st century. DARE represents an important facet of Stanford's commitment to address these issues in forceful and creative ways."

To illustrate one aspect of the challenge, Gumport cited statistics on undergraduate and graduate enrollment of underrepresented minorities—African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians. Although the number of underrepresented minorities rose 20 percent in Stanford's undergraduate population from 1995 to 2007, the number enrolled in graduate school dropped by 13 percent during that same period.

Under the new program, each fellow will receive up to $2,000 for a small project, such as mentoring an undergraduate or bringing speakers to Stanford, that is designed to enhance diversity on campus. Each fellow also will receive funding for a recruiting trip to an undergraduate institution to encourage promising undergraduates to attend graduate school.

"The campus visit may also provide the fellow with an opportunity to give a talk about their research and scholarship," Gumport said. "In this way, DARE fellows could return to their undergraduate institution or visit a campus where they are interested in obtaining a position as a postdoctoral scholar or faculty member."

Gumport, a professor of education and director of the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research, said the rationale and structure of the program is grounded in research, including the 2007 Stanford study titled "Priming the Pipeline: Understanding the Obstacles and Incentives for Considering an Academic Career."

In the study, female and minority faculty reported that having the right mentors and understanding the "unspoken rules of academia" were important to career success. Under DARE, each fellow will be paired with a tenured faculty member—in addition to a dissertation adviser—who will serve as a mentor.

DARE fellows will be chosen in three cohorts. Twelve students will be selected for fellowships in the spring of 2008, 2009 and 2010.