Graduation of Minority PhDs Draws National Support

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The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering‘s past success in graduating minority PhD students has garnered an invitation from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to help increase the numbers.

Sangtae  Kim

Sangtae Kim (large image)

From 1991-1995, the department graduated six PhDs from underrepresented minority groups. The number of minority PhDs has been low historically in fields such as mathematics, science and engineering, and the New York City-based Sloan Foundation offers financial support to faculty or departments that have a proven record of attracting underrepresented minorities to their graduate programs.

Based on figures from the National Research Council, the foundation sent an invitation this year to the UW-Madison chemical engineering department. Sloan program officer Ted Greenwood says the grants provide $30,000 for each additional student expected to obtain a PhD from the department.

Department chair Sangtae Kim says the department’s progress in minority recruiting has come from a combination of program quality and aggressive, personalized recruiting.

Hispanic students have done especially well, Kim says, thanks to a long-standing partnership with the University of Puerto Rico. The department has exchanged students and faculty with the university since the late 1960s, and UW-Madison has a strong word-of-mouth reputation there.

The department’s approach to recruiting also makes a difference, he says. Every spring, the department formally invites about 40 of its top graduate recruits to campus for a weekend, giving them a chance to meet faculty and check out research opportunities. Kim says the personal touch has been helpful in recruiting students regardless of race, but has paid dividends in minority recruiting because those students are highly sought after nationally.