A recent article in Science magazine, “Michigan’s Surprising Path to Diversity,” highlights the success of the Applied Physics Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan in recruiting and graduating underrepresented students. As much as one-third of the program’s entering cohort are Black, Latino, or Native American students, compared with 5% nationally, and women comprise one-third of the typical graduating class. Success starts by removing barriers, such as reconceptualizing the vision of the ideal graduate student among faculty, empowering staff to serve, and creating a family-like climate. Roy Clark, founding program director, states that “we make it clear that we expect people who come here to succeed,” and the program promotes excellent teaching among research faculty. The interdisciplinary program also helps to connect multiple areas of study, which appeals to underrepresented students. For example, the Imes-Moore Bridge Program helps recruit, prepare, and sustain cohorts of underrepresented students to the program. Model programs such as this one can inspire new ways of structuring our own PhD programs for student success.
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