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A Program Evaluation of a Policy Intervention to Increase Racial Diversity in the Sciences and Engineering

This dissertation is an evaluation of an intervention designed to (a) increase the number of minority students who pursue graduate degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines, and (b) to develop a cadre of qualified individuals from minority backgrounds who, upon finishing their training, are ready to take positions as faculty members and mentors. The Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) is a program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support a pathway from undergraduate to graduate school and to a career in the professoriate. AGEP is part of an effort by the U.S. Government to keep the nations' competitive edge; redress historical gender and racial inequalities still prevalent at the higher levels of science and academia; and to use those who have reached the top of their professions as effective role models for the thousands of talented youth who are excluded from STEM fields due to real or perceived social, economic, or cultural barriers. As of September 2012, there were 178 colleges and universities grouped in 37 alliances nationwide and serving approximately 22,000 minority doctoral students. Specifically, this evaluation focuses on one alliance situated in the North Region of the United States, and presents the approaches, rationale, and findings of evaluation activities conducted during 2011 through 2012. The overarching goals of this evaluation were to assist program managers and staff in their efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of the program, and to provide them with information related to the program's contribution to increasing the recruitment and retention of students from underrepresented minorities (URMs) in STEM graduate programs, their transition into the professoriate, and the strength of the program's theory of change. To achieve these goals the evaluation design included a) the reconstruction of the program's theory, b) a systematic review and meta-analysis of existing research; and c) analysis of primary data collected from a sample of current AGEP students, alumni, faculty, staff, and program officers. Primary data were collected through focus groups, interviews, and electronic surveys for current and former participants. The evaluation found evidence that the North Region program has been largely successful in contributing to the number of URM receiving STEM graduate degrees at both the master's and doctoral levels in North Carolina since its inception in 1999. Those who have received their graduate degrees are employed in academic and non-academic settings as practitioners, researchers, and as university faculty. Probably the most significant weakness was the absence of a systematic or coherent evaluation design of the program that could be found throughout the history of the program.
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