Minority Ph.D. Students Convene to Further Diversity in Faculty Ranks

October 27, 2007

Arlington, Va. — More than a thousand minority doctoral students from around the country gathered here this weekend for the Compact for Faculty Diversity’s 14th annual Institute on Teaching and Mentoring. The four-day conference, the largest of its kind, aims to counter the shortage of minority faculty members.

Enticing minority students and scholars into academe is especially critical, said Ansley A. Abraham Jr., director of the Southern Regional Education Board’s Doctoral Scholars program (a co-sponsor of the event), given the Labor Department’s prediction that the greatest job growth in the next decade will be for holders of doctorates. “If we miss that opportunity to diversify the faculty,” he said, “it won’t come again in yours or my lifetime.”

To that end, the conference offered sessions tailored to the various stages of the path to an advanced degree. There were workshops on how to choose a faculty adviser, write grant proposals, finish the dissertation, get it published, and prepare to interview for a faculty position. Some doctoral candidates could practice the latter skill at the many tables of university recruiters who also attended the conference.

At awards ceremonies on Friday and Saturday, the conference honored scholars who received their doctoral degrees within the last year, and the faculty mentors who helped them.

Mostly, said Mr. Abraham, the annual institute is an opportunity for graduate students and faculty members, many of whom may be the only members of minority groups in their departments, to network and gain support from one another. “Where else are you going to see 1,000 other minority Ph.D. students?” he said. “Nowhere.” —Paula Wasley