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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This report has been developed to assist the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in responding to a Congressional request to evaluate the feasibility of initiating a National Scholars Program. It includes detailed design for a program to increase the number of underparticipating minorities earning Ph.D.s in mathematics, the physical sciences, and engineering. The proposed program will provide (a) a continuum of academic and financial support for participants beginning in high school and continuing through Ph.D. study and (b) coordination with other science education initiatives funded by NASA and/or other agencies, organizations, and institutions. The numerical goal of the National Scholars Program is to double the number of Ph.D.s earned annually by American Indians, Blacks, Latinos, and Pacific Islanders in mathematics, the physical sciences, and engineering. National Scholars who earn the Ph.D. will become not only learned experts who search for knowledge but scholars who transmit their learning to others. They should also accept the responsibility to assure that more minorities follow in their footsteps. While the National Scholars Program will not focus on fundamental reform of the educational system, it should foster an educational environment that will enhance student development for minorities and all students. The program will provide leadership, guidance, and support for the development of 20 to 30 National Scholars consortiums. Each consortium will include one or more undergraduate institutions, one or more graduate institutions and departments, and a precollege component. Each consortium may elect to develop an intensive relationship with a precollege science program or a school system, initiate a new precollege activity, or develop linkages with several precollege programs to recruit talented high school students for undergraduate study. It should also develop linkages with other organizations or entities from the public and private sectors, such as scientific societies, minority professional associations, and business and industry. Operational responsibility for the program will be assigned to a National Scholars Coordinating Council. The council, with the assistance of staff, will establish guidelines for the design of consortia, evaluate proposals for consortium funding, oversee performance of the individual consortia, develop linkages with national organizations, organize a national conference, establish a national database, secure supplemental funding for the program, provide technical assistance to program participants, and facilitate student movement among consortiums. The council may be established as an independent entity, or it may be housed at an existing organization that has strong credibility within the scientific community.
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN Each consortium must have a set of "non-negotiable" program elements that will form the educational core of the National Scholars Program. These include mentoring, academic advisement, research participation, structured teaching, prefreshman summer bridge programs, and enrichment. Enrichment encompasses a range of activities such as travel to professional society meetings, workshops, and public service that will enrich the educational program and enhance achievement. Other enrichment activities may be determined by each consortium site. Development of the educational elements of each consortium should be guided by two principles. The first is academic excellence. The National Scholars Program should be identified first with high academic performance and then as a program to foster minority achievement. Second, it is essential that faculty be involved in all aspects of the development and implementation of the program. Faculty must participate fully in the design and execution of all program components, including teaching, research, mentoring, academic advising, and in interactions with other partners in the consortium. Two administrative elements of the program—student financial support and program evaluation—are prominent in its design. All undergraduate National Scholars will be awarded a merit scholarship in recognition of academic achievement. Additional grants to scholars will be based on financial need, although financial need is not a condition of eligibility for admission to the program. The need award—a last-dollar approach—is thus intended to fill the gap between determined financial need and the total amount of grant assistance a National Scholar receives, including the National Scholars merit award and all federal, institutional, and other grants. Doctoral-level National Scholars will receive two years of fellowship support from the National Scholars Program, with institutions providing full support for the remainder of the scholars' predoctoral tenure. Program evaluation should be built into the program from its inception, including both formative and summative evaluations. Each consortium will be required to collect a common core set of data elements, and the National Scholars Coordinating Council will maintain a national database to monitor performance of the individual consortium sites. The primary selection point will be in the student's senior year of high school, concurrent with his or her application to college. Students will be selected to participate in the program from a review of the portfolio of information provided to those who will implement the selection process at the individual consortia. The portfolio will include a statement from the student outlining his or her academic and career goals, letters of recommendation, a high school transcript, and SAT or ACT scores. When possible, an interview with each applicant should be conducted. The program should make provision for "late bloomers," for students who wish to enter from other higher education institutions or programs, and for students who, as high school seniors, simply did not know about the National Scholars Program. Students must maintain a 3.2 GPA in science and mathematics coursework and otherwise maintain satisfactory academic progress. Furthermore, students will be required to sign a yearly, renewable contract in which they declare their intent and commitment to pursue advanced (doctoral) study in science and engineering. Students must attend a graduate school that is a member of a National Scholars Consortium to retain their eligibility for
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN scholarship and other forms of program support. They will be required to apply through the normal admissions process. Being a National Scholar will not guarantee admission to graduate school. However, we expect that a well-prepared National Scholar will have a strong likelihood of attending his or her graduate school of choice because the student will have benefited from access to sound counseling and advice about graduate study programs. The requirement that graduate students enroll only in institutions in a National Scholars Consortium is indeed a restrictive one, but one necessary to meet the program's goal. Excellent academic training can be found at any number of institutions, but a much smaller number provide the environment of support needed for many minority students to complete their degrees. If a student enrolls elsewhere, the program will maintain communication with the student and track his or her academic and career progress. Recipients of National Scholars consortium funding will be selected through a competitive process. The overriding criterion for evaluating consortium applicants is the likelihood of success in advancing the participation of minorities in science and engineering at the doctoral level. Each proposed consortium will be asked to provide evidence that indicates the following: effective implementation of the proposed educational elements; the contributions of the proposed partners in the consortium; institutional commitment; a record of accomplishment in educating minority students and/or evidence of proposed commitment that suggests a strong likelihood of future success; and a high quality academic program. We propose that the National Scholars Program produce 235 minority Ph.D.s in mathematics, the physical sciences, and engineering each year; this would double the number currently awarded. In order to accomplish this goal, we suggest the following number of students enter the program as college undergraduates and proceed through the various levels leading to a Ph.D.: 750 entering freshmen, 225 sophomores and juniors, 725 bachelor's degree recipients, 362 doctoral study entrants, and 235 Ph.D.s. Once the program is fully implemented and reaches steady state, there will be 3,048 undergraduate students and 1,810 doctoral students. These estimates will result in an average number of students ranging from 100 to 150 undergraduates and from 60 to 90 doctoral students in each of the 20-30 consortiums. However, since individual consortiums might be configured in very different ways and because of wide variation in the number of departments and colleges and universities participating, these averages are not intended to establish limits for the size of the consortiums. We have based our estimates on a review of available data on persistence rates for all students in science and engineering, for minority students, and for minority students in programs that are comparable in some respects with the proposed National Scholars Program. However, reliable information on persistence is both scarce and difficult to interpret and inadequate in several respects. Thus we must stress that these estimates are also based on the committee's collective knowledge and experience with specific
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN programs that target well-prepared minority students. The National Scholars Program should be envisaged, at a minimum, as a 15-year commitment. After the planning stage, there should be a two-year pilot phase during which three consortiums will be established. Information obtained from the experience of these first two years will indicate whether the activities are operating as planned and permit refinement of the guidelines for implementation of subsequent consortiums. Over the subsequent three years, other consortiums would be established and the full program implemented. Planning activities for the first year of the National Scholars Program are estimated to cost $0.5 million. The second and third years of the program will involve implementation of the three pilot consortiums and an increase in the planning, coordinating, and oversight responsibilities of the National Scholars Coordinating Council at a cost of $9.3 million. In 12 years, estimated annual expenditures for the national program and consortium site activities will total $48.7 million, with undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships representing the major share of program costs. We recommend that NASA convene, in partnership with a national association or organization of scientists and engineers, an initial conference of educators and scientists to publicize the program and inform pertinent organizations and individuals about its purposes and strategies. Following the development of program guidelines, to be specified in an RFP, a second meeting with promising candidates should be convened to explain the requirements for preparing a proposal to fund and implement a consortium.
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