Strategies to Enhance the Role of HBCUs in Increasing the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medical (STEMM) Workforce

Strategies to Enhance the Role of HBCUs in Increasing the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medical (STEMM) Workforce

Japera Johnson (Morehouse School of Medicine, USA), Tiffany Jones (Southern Education Foundation, USA), Georges Haddad (Howard University, USA), Clyde Wilcox (Georgetown University, USA) and Judith K. (Gwathmey) Wilcox (Boston University School of Medicine, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0308-8.ch007
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Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have a long history of student engagement and institutional commitment to developing STEMM degrees. To become even better at fostering a diverse STEMM field, HBCUs must assess their strengths, weaknesses and challenges as well as opportunities in order to remain competitive in the 21st century. This chapter explores factors related to improving STEMM student academic preparation, retention and engagement. The authors provide recommendations to enhance experiential learning and offer educational pathways that lead to long-term retention and engagement of minority students. Furthermore, in the face of the need to advance and diversify the scientific workforce, we examine whether and how specific institutional contexts shape student interactions with faculty and institutional cultures. Historically black colleges and universities have played an important role in diversifying the Science Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine (STEMM) workforce. In this paper we offer practical suggestions to clarify and strengthen their roles in student recruitment, retention, engagement, and advancement in STEMM. Preparatory summer institutes give minority students access to curriculum, tutoring, research opportunities, psycho-social support while encouraging the development of peer and faculty relationships. Such institutes nurture a successful socialization of minority students into STEMM disciplines. Dual admissions between two year and four year degree granting institutions will likely enhance student retention. Institutional agents and mentors play a major role by providing experiential learning opportunities that capture and retain students' interests. A combination of experiential learning, dual articulation, and the creation of strong and engaged institutional agents as well as mentors will likely facilitate student retention and successful integration into a larger STEMM network.
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Occupations in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medical occupations (STEMM) are key components for innovation and economic prosperity (Landivar, 2013). Increasingly STEMM occupations have become central to economic competitiveness and growth for the United States (Jobs for the Future, 2007). The Obama Administration’s project “Educate to Innovate” seeks to train 100,000 new STEM teachers in public schools by broadening participation with the goal to inspire a more diverse STEMM talent pool (, 2015). Throughout his term, President Barack Obama has pressed for cooperation between industry, private donors, and educational institutions to help young women and men – especially those from underrepresented groups – to take up training in STEMM fields.

STEMM occupations extend across many disciplines e.g. (1) Life and Physical Science, (2) Engineering, (3) Mathematics, (4) Information Technology, (5) Social Science, (6) Architecture (7) Medicine (SOS, 2012). Despite STEMM professions becoming the fastest growing segment of U.S. occupations (Langdon, McKittrick, Beede, Khan & Doms, 2011; Richards & Terkanian, 2013) there remains a lack of diversity with regard to both education and professional opportunities for under-represented minorities (Chubin & Malcolm 2008; NSF, 2013; American Institutes for Research, 2012).

The lack of diversity in medicine is evident. Although the number of minority faculty and students has increased in recent years, the number remains far below proposed targets in academic medicine (Rodriguez, Campbell & Pololi, 2015). Historically, the majority of African American physicians graduate from three HBCU medical schools: Howard University, Meharry Medical College and Morehouse School of Medicine (Harp, Shim, Johnson, Harp, Wilcox & Wilcox, 2015). In 2012, there were only 217 African American men among more than 20,000 graduating medical students (Association of American Medical Colleges, 2012). In 2016, African Americans constituted only 6.3% of the 86,746 students enrolled in accredited medical schools, and Hispanics constituted only 5.1% (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Articulation into accredited U.S. medical schools by ethnicity

(modified from 2016).

It is even more troubling that between 2008 and 2016, the percentage of African Americans with faculty positions in medical schools has actually declined, from 2.3% in 2008 to a dismal 1.3% in 2016 (Figure 2).

Figure 2.

Medical faculty distribution by ethnic group for 2008 and 2016

(modified from 2016).

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