New NSF Grant Offers Bridge to Doctorate
The Bridge to the Doctorate, a new fellowship program launched at the University of Connecticut, helps students by providing them with funding for the first two years of their graduate study. The program has support from the National Science Foundation. Individuals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are in greater demand than they ever were before. These jobs have grown three times faster than some of the non-related jobs throughout the past decade. As a result, workers are earning around 26 percent more than those who are in non-related jobs within non-related industries, which is according to the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic and Statistics Administration.
The number of students from underrepresented minorities which are seeking advanced degrees in these areas are still low, however. Underrepresented students are considered to comprise less than 1 percent of Ph.D's that have been provided in the U.S within the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. During the past fall, the University of Connecticut received $1 million in funding from the National Science Foundation in order to support the Bridge to the Doctorate program, which is going to provide fellowships for dedicated students who are from underrepresented minority backgrounds and are pursuing their graduate students specifically within the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
In order to be eligible for the Bridge to the Doctorate program, students must have also participated in LSAMP, a nationwide program which strives to increase the number of underrepresented students completing bachelor's degrees in the areas of STEM. At the University of Connecticut, LSAMP has been in place for the past 12 years, during which time the number of underrepresented students graduating within the STEM disciplines have more than quadrupled. The students have maintained a graduation rate of up to 90 percent. The Bridge to the Doctorate program was launched this past January and supports six University of Connecticut students from Hispanic, African American, and Native American backgrounds for the first two years of their graduate study in their chosen field. An additional six STEM Ph.D candidates will be able to begin with their fellowship during this fall. After the first two years, each student will be pledged an additional three years of funding from his or her advisor from the related department.
Unlike some of the traditional Ph.D. programs, Bridge to the Doctorate pairs students up with their advisors instantly for their area of interest. That allows them to begin working on their research from their initial start of their interaction in the program. The program also provides its students with a wide variety of different leadership activities, such as taking professional development courses and mentoring students in high school and middle school. Some students also have the opportunity to present at conferences. These elements of support will help to engage the students with each other.