Underrepresented minority (URM) students have long been underrepresented STEM fields, and the situation in physics and astronomy is particularly critical, with only 6% of PhDs awarded to Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students. Responding to the national need to diversify these programs, the American Physics Society (APS) created a Bridge Program which has the dual goals of increasing the fraction of PhDs awarded to URM students to the same fraction as for bachelor’s degrees and improving the culture of graduate education for all students, with particular emphasis on URM students.
Signaling their commitment to this important effort, the WVU Department of Physics and Astronomy was recently named an APS Bridge Program Partnership Institution. Partnership Institutions are those which have plans to build supportive, inclusive environments for graduate students. WVU is one of 40 APS Bridge Partnership Institutions in the United States.
“This is a very important step in demonstrating our commitment to increasing the diversity of our graduate student population and improving the culture for all of our graduate students,” states Prof. Maura McLaughlin, the coordinator of the initiative.
The program is a part of a larger Inclusive Graduate Education Network that seeks to lead a paradigm shift in increasing the participation of underrepresented racial and ethnic minority students who enter graduate school. Along with resources and tools to prepare students for success in graduate school, networking and mentorship opportunities are offered to PhD students.
As a Partnership Institution, WVU Physics and Astronomy will have access to APS resources to develop supportive strategies for URM students and to continue training on best supportive practices. Specifically, the department will support holistic admissions process, pathways to scholarships, and services that support strong peer and faculty mentoring within the department. Lastly, the department looks forward to the positive effects that these changes will bring about locally and is honored to support the APS Bridge Program mission nationally.
As Chair of WVU Physics and Astronomy, Professor D.J. Pisano reflects on the designation. “I am very proud of our faculty and students who have committed to putting in the hard work for WVU Physics & Astronomy to become an APS Bridge Partnership institution. This status reflects our aspiration to better serve our students and help improve the diversity both within our department and throughout the fields of Physics and Astronomy, while fostering an equitable and inclusive environment.” He looks forward by noting “we hope that WVU can be a leader in this area.”
For more information on the APS Bridge Partnership Program, visit: https://www.aps.org/programs/minorities/bridge/bridge-inst.cfm
For more information on the WVU Physics and Astronomy Department, visit: https://physics.wvu.edu
Contact Holly Legleiter, Public Relations Coordinator, Center for Gravitational Waves and Cosmology, firstname.lastname@example.org