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STEM Diversty-HBCUs-A Pipeline Or, A Pipe Dream?

In developing our end of the week series on STEM Diversity HBCUs- A Pipeline or A Pipe Dream?  OGTV has made it “openly” clear that it is our journalistic preference to find enough data to support the strength of HBCUs being a gateway to high wage earning STEM careers for minority students.   The legacy of HBCUs confirm  rich history of Black leadership and some of the nation's leading success stories are graduates of HBCUs.  In our research on this topic, we came across an excellent piece of work, and will spend the rest of this news segment sharing excerpts.  You then, decide.

The article, STEM Pipeline Problems To Aid STEM Diversity was published by David Orenstein,  on June 18, 2014 in the Brown University’s News From Brown.

According to David, “educators and policymakers have spent decades trying to recruit and retain more under represented minority students into the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) pipeline.  A new analysis of disappointing results in the pipeline’s output lead two Brown University biologists to suggest measures to help the flow overcome an apparent gravity.”

In a new paper in the journal Bioscience, the two Brown University biologists analyze the pipeline’s flawed flow and propose four research based ideas to ensure that more students emerge from the far end with Ph.D.’s, and STEM careers. 

Senior author, Andrew G. Campbell, associate professor of biology, who write this review along with postdoctoral scholar Stacy-Ann Allen-Ramdial.  said “its almost as if people have satisfied themselves with the thought that the STEM pipeline rests on a flat terrain, passively and reliably conveying to the finish whatever quantity of students enter.  Instead, the pipeline has a steep rise against a gravity of endemic hindrances”, Campbell says.  Campbell cited in the paper that for decades, many students haven’t made it to the top of the pipeline.   “What’s needed to stem the leaks and backflow, is consistently applied energy all the way through the pipeline”.

“That pipeline we’ve laid?  We’re stuffing it, but the yield is less than we expect because it’s not a horizontal pipeline, it’s a vertical one.”  You can’t just stuff it, and walk away.” 

According to the analysis, the data looks good at the pipeline entrance: Similar proportions of underrepresented minority (URM) and non-URM incoming college freshman (a little more than a third ) express an intent to study STEM subjects.  Generally, according to Campbell, however, URM students are less likely to graduate than non-URM students.  While 24.1 percent of U.S. college freshman came from URM groups in 2000, only 18.5 percent of bachelors-degree recipients did so in 2004.  The losses specific to STEM become most evident in the transition into graduate school, according to Campbell and Allen-Ramdial using National Science Foundation statistics.  After college in 2009, 36 percent of the URM students holding STEM bachelor’s degree holders were even more unlikely to earn doctorates. 

While URM students earned 18.3 percent of the STEM bachelor’s degrees in 2004, they earned only 12.1 percent of the STEM doctorates in 2010.  “The workplaces those surviving STEM students entered at the other end of the pipeline were even less diverse.  Individuals from URM groups held about 10 percent of STEM jobs in 2010.”

Recommendations to Educators and Policy Makers

To serve the volume of students entering the pipeline, Campbell and Allen-Ramdial argue that educators and policymakers must enhance the conditions that will move them through the pipeline despite the gravity of several persistent problems in academic culture and practice.  The authors propose four ideas based in educational research and practices that have emerged in recent years: alignment of culture and climate; partnerships between research and minority-serving universities; critical masses of minority students; and faculty engagement in diversity.

For more of this article visit

OGTV is continuing to encourage blogs, videos, expert opinions, and interested party feedback on this very important topic. Send all comments to, and if you have a related interview interest call us at 202-469-3423.

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