Brookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University Launch Program to Increase Underrepresented Minority Faculty Hires

AGEP-T FRAME Principal Investigators enlarge

AGEP-T FRAME Principal Investigators are, from left, Bonita London (SBU), David Ferguson (SBU), Dennis Assanis (SBU), Kenneth White (BNL), Charles Taber (SBU), and Nina Maung (SBU).

UPTON, NY — The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and Stony Brook University's (SBU) Center for Inclusive Education (CIE) in the Graduate School have received a  $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to increase the competitiveness of underrepresented minority (URM) PhD students and postdoctoral trainees who are US citizens advancing into STEM careers. This Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate-Transformation (AGEP-T) initiative is called FRAME (Frontiers of Research and Academic Models of Excellence).  In the three-year grant period, the project will provide comprehensive professional training to 30 graduate students and 12 postdoctoral fellows, preparing these FRAME fellows to compete for and succeed in faculty positions at top research-intensive institutions.

"The FRAME alliance capitalizes on the rigor and research accomplishments at SBU and BNL to build a broader partnership aimed at strengthening diversity and inclusion," said Provost Dennis Assanis, principal investigator of FRAME.  "Highly productive, intellectually stimulating training environments are combined with professional development and early career training that will allow URM students and postdocs to succeed in the competitive professional environment of the Professoriate."  

It is important to note that AGEP-T will differ significantly in structure from the previous SUNY-AGEP program as the goals of AGEP-T shifts focus from the recruitment of larger numbers of URM STEM graduate students to ensuring these students' successful transition into the STEM workforce.  FRAME will achieve this by providing funding opportunities to enhance research productivity and technical skills for obtaining research funding.   

"The AGEP program has been successful in getting underrepresented minorities into grad school and helping them graduate. Now the challenge is getting them into faculty positions," said Ken White, manager of Brookhaven Lab's Office of Educational Programs (OEP). "The AGEP-T will provide a very strong postdoctoral training component addressing the core skills necessary for successful transition to faculty positions. FRAME will focus on PhD students moving into postdoctoral positions at both Stony Brook and Brookhaven. We are looking to double the numbers at both institutions within the next three years."

The project identifies complementary objectives for the two sites, each of which will have its own program manager.  

"Our programmatic model, based on research, evidence-based best practices and more than a decade of experience building an exemplary graduate URM community at Stony Brook via the preceding SUNY-AGEP grant, will be useful for others who seek to advance diversity in academic research environments, with the longer term goal of creating a competitive and diverse pool of highly productive creative educators who will serve as future leaders," said Nina Maung-Gaona, director of the Center for Inclusive Education (CIE) and the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the Graduate School, who lead the development of the grant proposal. 

Both Stony Brook and Brookhaven Lab will identify mentors for a total of 12 postdoctoral trainees, each for two-year appointments as FRAME fellows. The research mentors will help FRAME fellows devise individual development plans to determine a career path. Since securing faculty positions is the ultimate goal of the program, the postdoctoral FRAME fellows will also participate in either secondary education or university based teaching to develop knowledge transfer skills.  The Stony Brook effort also includes a component for increasing the retention and graduation rates of underrepresented minority graduate students and supporting their successful pursuit of postdoctoral positions at academic institutions.  

Over the past several years, Brookhaven Lab has been working with the Interdisciplinary Consortium for Research and Educational Access in Science and Engineering (INCREASE), consisting of minority professors at minority-serving institutions, seeking to level the playing field in education and research. The 11 core INCREASE institutions from the United States, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico will help identify candidates for the program. 

"For more than a decade, BNL's leadership has supported the Diversity Office postdoc affirmative action program by allocating funds to assist senior researchers with attracting and sustaining women and URM research associates," said Shirley Kendall, director of Brookhaven's Diversity Office.  "Designed to tackle the challenge of strengthening the U.S. STEM workforce as well, the merging of the AGEP-T grant with the postdoc affirmative action program leverages the staffing resources of SBU and BNL."

FRAME also includes a scholarly research component on the issues of identity and self-efficacy in STEM, led by Bonita London in the Department of Psychology at SBU.  She and Sheri Clark, a CIE postdoctoral researcher, will carry out extensive survey research over the three-year grant period to determine factors that contribute to the development of a STEM identity and a strong sense of self-efficacy.

As lead institution, Stony Brook University joins five other top tier institutions in winning this competitive grant:  University of California Berkeley, Purdue University, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Texas A&M, and University of Michigan Ann Arbor.  As Distinguished Service Professor and Associate Provost David Ferguson, who serves as project director of FRAME, pointed out, "The new AGEP-T award is a testament to our University's innovative and competitive work in enhancing diversity in our graduate and postdoctoral communities." The Stony Brook University/Brookhaven National Lab partnership is unique in its pairing of a university with a national laboratory. 

FRAME funding opportunities are currently under development and will be announced soon on the new FRAME Web site.

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