From Diversifying Economic Quality: A Wiki for Instructors and Departments
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Revision as of 23:21, 31 October 2011
Students come into universities and colleges with very different backgrounds and views about certain academic subjects and the departments should actively recruit these students by providing various introductory courses that appeal to students with different levels of background and preparation in the subject.
Barbara Whitten, a Physics professor at Colorado College, worked with a team of researchers to investigate what are successful tactics in attracting women in undergraduate physics departments. She examined nine undergraduate-only physics departments at different universities and colleges and classified them as either 'successful' or 'typical'. Then, she conducted interviews and sat in on physics classes to determine what made physics deparments 'successful' or 'typical'. Whitten and her colleagues determined that department culture was the differentiating factor for these two types of departments.
Whitten also visited historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and found that they had a key strategy that Whitten did not observe at other colleges and universities. The HBCUs "provide a path toward a degree for students who do not come to college fully prepared to be physics majors." Whitten observed that HBCUs and women's colleges recognize that many students of color or female students don't enter college wanting to be a physics major and they had an active recruitment strategy to attract them into the discipline. Whitten says, "This reality forces faculty to think of “pathways rather than pipelines” and challenges the notion of a singular, linear route to becoming a physicist, which is more likely to reflect a white male experience."
By having active recruitment policies where the departments provide introductory courses that appeal to students who were underprepared or not considering a major in that department, departments can improve diversity in the field.
Indeed, "the work of faculty at HBCUs to provide a pathway into physics for underprepared students is an excellent example of how critical this is to identifying and recruiting talented STEM students from more diverse backgrounds."