Fostering Success of Ethnic and Racial Minorities in STEM: The Role of Minority Serving Institutions ed. by Robert T. Palmer, Dina C. Maramba, and Marybeth Gasman (review)
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Reviewed by
Fostering Success of Ethnic and Racial Minorities in STEM: The Role of Minority Serving Institutions
Robert T. Palmer, Dina C. Maramba, and Marybeth Gasman (Editors)
New York, NY: Taylor & Francis, 2013, 264 pages, $49.95 (softcover)

Fostering Success of Ethnic and Racial Minorities in STEM: The Role of Minority Serving Institutions makes an important contribution to three bodies of literature in higher education: student success for ethnic and racial minorities, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, and minority serving institutions (MSIs). Editors Palmer, Maramba, and Gasman have brought together in one volume recent research and theory that explains how MSIs produce disproportionate percentages of underrepresented undergraduates in STEM majors and in the post-baccalaureate STEM education and career pipelines. Contributors to the volume are leaders in the area of scholarship on MSIs and on ethnic and racial minority student success.

The stated aim of this volume is to address “the ways in which MSIs are able to facilitate the achievement of [underrepresented minorities (URMs)] in STEM” (p. xv). The editors acknowledge the relative wealth of “articles, reports, and policy briefs” (p. xv) on the topic, yet correctly conclude that there is a need for a volume such as this one that can be used by faculty and higher education professionals who aim to support URMs in STEM at MSIs or predominantly white institutions (PWIs). For educators at MSIs there are important lessons about STEM education, and for educators at PWIs there are also lessons about creating sub-environments that remove barriers to URM student success and intentionally support their learning and development in STEM fields.

The book is comprised of 15 chapters including empirical studies, scholarly essays, and policy analyses. Freeman A. Hrabowski III’s preface and Shaun R. Harper’s afterword nicely bookend the volume with their thoughts and reflections on its significance and implications. Throughout this review, we provide a few chapter examples to illustrate the array of valuable information contained in this book.

Given the dearth of existing literature on some MSIs, readers less familiar with these institutions will appreciate the first chapter’s overview of their history, missions, and contemporary contributions in the higher education landscape. While representing a small fraction of the higher education landscape, MSIs graduate a substantial number of URMs in STEM, due in part to the philosophical underpinnings that inform student-centered practices in MSIs. Believing that all students have the ability to succeed irrespective of pre-college attributes, authors in this volume use theory and empirical evidence to present strategies to build confidence, community, and positive campus climate as well as culturally relevant teaching and learning approaches, including mentoring. The evidence-based programming models will be especially helpful to college administrators and educators seeking to replicate promising practices.

The authors raise critical policy concerns regarding the disproportionately low funding given to MSIs and the ways that policies are written such that MSIs have to compete for relatively few resources. In chapter 2, [End Page 103] Dowd, Sawatzky, Rall, and Bensimon and colleagues also note the lack of federal oversight for Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). Institutional classification as an HSI requires that Latino students comprise 25% of enrollment, but does not include regulatory obligations for programming focused on serving Latino students. Their chapter proposes the usage of action research as an accountability mechanism to identify disparities in institutional policies and practices and opportunities to improve student services and outcomes.

A recurring theme in the book is the need for partnerships among all educational sectors (i.e., P–20), institutions (e.g., MSIs), and federal agencies (e.g., NSF), intra-sector (i.e., MSIs working together), and inter-sector (i.e., MSIs and PWIs, 2-year and 4-year institutions) to improve the educational outcomes of underrepresented students in STEM. In their chapter, Espinosa and Rodriguez recommend more intra-sector learning about promising practices as a mechanism to scale up successful programs for URMs in STEM. As identified throughout the book, many existing programs are small and contingent upon available funding. Without efforts to scale up these programs the relatively small and incremental increases in URM STEM degree attainment are not enough to...