Strategic planning at FSU: Addressing decline in percentages of black scientists and engineers should be highest priority

Florida State University’s strategic planning process is underway.  Here is the input I’ve submitted through two channels so far:

There is no postsecondary education issue in Florida more urgent than this: The share of SUS bachelors’ degrees in science and engineering being earned by black students is declining. In 2004-2005, 11.0% of SUS bachelors’ degrees in engineering were earned by black students. In 2013-2014, that was 6.9%. In the physical sciences, the corresponding decline was from 11.0% to 7.4%. In computing fields, it was from 15.2% to 11.1%. In math and statistics, from 11.3% to 7.9%.

Of course, we are prohibited from targeting black students. So we can recast this as targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

There is much we can do at FSU to address this. We can change the way we teach math and science – see the recent New York Times opinion piece here.

We can make more research opportunities available to lower division students from disadvantaged backgrounds, as recommended in the White House report “Engage to Excel”. We can focus scholarship resources on disadvantaged students who intend to pursue science and engineering majors.

Furthermore, we can redouble our efforts to put more highly qualified math and science teachers in high needs K-12 schools. FSU-Teach is already working on this, of course. But we are presently doing little or nothing to address the need for science specialists in elementary schools.

We can do a much better job targeting our outreach activities to students in high-needs schools, and we can do more to support professors who are willing to engage in such outreach.

In short, FSU should be making a major effort to bring more students from disadvantaged backgrounds into math and science careers.

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