University of Maryland: UMD Among Tops in Nation for Black Alums Earning Doctorates

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The University of Maryland ranks among the country’s top colleges and universities for Black or African American undergraduates who later achieved doctoral degrees from 2010 to 2020, according to new data from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Not only did UMD tie for eighth among all institutions in last week’s report, it was the No. 1 non-historically Black college or university (HBCU) by that measure, with 218 Ph.D.s. It’s an achievement for a flagship institution dedicated to serving all the residents of a state as diverse as Maryland, said University of Maryland President Darryll J. Pines.

“It gives me great pride to see the University of Maryland as a national leader in Black or African American bachelor’s degree graduates who go on to earn a doctorate, and we appreciate NSF recognizing us as first in the nation after HBCUs,” Pines said. “We will celebrate this achievement and get right back to work nurturing a multicultural campus where diverse backgrounds and perspectives are championed.”

UMD also ranked 50th as the baccalaureate-origin institutions of Hispanic or Latino doctorate recipients from 2010–20, and was one of just a handful of institutions in the top 50 located in the Northeastern United States rather than in areas with historically large Latino populations, from Puerto Rico to Florida and Texas to California.

Overall in the U.S., UMD ranks No. 15 for undergraduate students of all races and ethnicities receiving science and engineering doctoral degrees, as well as 35th for other research doctoral degrees, according to NSF data released in March.

Leaders of university programs that contributed high numbers of Ph.D.-earning undergrads said the accomplishment was the result of years of targeted work to increase the pipeline of students from diverse backgrounds in graduate study.

“What motivated us was looking at our undergraduate population and seeing it was much more diverse than our graduate population, and seeing from NSF data it’s not just us—all around the country, white students are very overrepresented in graduate study,” said Naz Salahuddin, principal lecturer, director of undergraduate studies and assistant chair for equity and inclusion in the Department of Psychology.

Salahuddin in 2016 founded PREP (Psychology Research Empowerment Program). It accepts a yearly cohort of 15-20 undergrads interested in graduate study—whether low-income, from underrepresented minority groups or first-generation college students—and builds a supportive community while grounding them in knowledge about research and graduate school.

The state’s diverse demographics helped Maryland rank highly in the NSF report, but it wouldn’t have been possible without faculty, staff and administrators dedicated creating opportunity for all, said Robert Infantino, senior lecturer in the Department of Biology and associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, home to the “life sciences” category in which UMD had a strong showing on the NSF survey

“We strive to have a supportive ecosystem—one where Black students and others underrepresented in STEM don’t feel alone and we have a campus where their learning and success is fostered,” Infantino said.

Ken Kiger, Keystone Professor in Mechanical Engineering and associate dean for undergraduate programs in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, placed much of the credit for engineering’s strong showing at the door of the school’s Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering–which features a host of programs to encourage students to pursue advanced degrees–and its longtime director, Rosemary Parker.

“Having the Center and all the efforts by Rosemary and her team make Maryland Engineering feel like a community where underrepresented minority students are welcomed and valued,” he said. “If we exclude a whole group of people, and they are not equitably represented in those degrees, we’re missing out on a significant pool of talent as well as not doing our job of serving the state of Maryland.”

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