Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

over the long term. As minority groups increase as a percentage of the US population, increasing their participation rate in science and engineering is critical if we are just to maintain the overall participation rate in science among the US population.9 Perhaps even more important, if some groups are underrepresented in science and engineering in our society, we are not attracting as many of the most talented people to an important segment of our knowledge economy.10

In postsecondary education, there are many principles that help minority-group students succeed, regardless of field. The Building Engineering and Science Talent11 (BEST) committee outlined eight key principles to expand representation:

  • Institutional leadership: Committing to inclusiveness across the campus community.

  • Targeted recruitment: Investing in and supporting a K–12 feeder system.

  • Engaged faculty: Rewarding faculty for the development of student talent.

  • Personal attention: Addressing, through mentoring and tutoring, the learning needs of each student.

  • Peer support: Giving students opportunities for interaction that builds support across cohorts and promotes allegiance to an institution, discipline, and profession.

  • Enriched research experience: Offering beyond-the-classroom hands-on opportunities and summer internships that connect to the world of work.

  • Bridge to the next level: Fostering institutional relationships to show students and faculty the pathways to career development.

  • Continuous evaluation: Monitoring results and making appropriate program adjustments.

BEST goes on to note that even with all the design principles in place, comprehensive financial assistance for low-income students is critical be-


National Science and Technology Council. Ensuring a Strong US Scientific, Technical, and Engineering Workforce in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President of the United States, 2000; Congressional Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development. Land of Plenty: Diversity as America’s Competitive Edge in Science, Engineering, and Technology. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2000.


Fechter and Teitelbaum have argued that “underrepresentation is an indicator of talent that is not exploited to its fullest potential. Such underutilization, which can exist simultaneously with situations of abundance, represents a cost to society as well as to the individuals in these groups.” A. Fechter and M. S. Teitelbaum. “A Fresh Approach to Immigration.” Issues in Science and Technology 13(3)(1997):28-32.


Building Engineering and Science Talent (BEST). 2004. A Bridge for All: Higher Education Design Principles in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. San Diego, CA: BEST. Available at:

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement