- Fostering Faculty Diversity by Supporting Access to Graduate Study in Education
Student enrollment in higher education has become increasingly diverse (Cook & Córdova, 2007), but progress toward hiring sociodemographically diverse faculty remains slow (Snyder, de Brey, & Dillow, 2019; Turner, González, & Wood, 2008). Faculty diversity is crucial for a variety of important outcomes, including academic success and student development (Stanley, 2006; Stout, Archie, Cross, & Carman, 2018). Moreover, the presence of faculty from underrepresented groups can advance research and teaching in new directions as scholars draw on diverse perspectives (Umbach, 2006). Recent data indicates that 43% of college students in the US identify with racial and ethnic minority groups, compared with just 23% of full-time faculty (Musu-Gillette et al., 2017; Snyder et al., 2019). While data on faculty representation by socioeconomic background is unavailable, research demonstrates that careers in academia are frequently perceived to be unwelcoming for individuals from working-class, poor, and first-generation college-going families (Ardoin & martinez, 2019; Lee, 2017).
A range of barriers undermine efforts to diversify postsecondary faculty. The pipeline from undergraduate to doctoral programs is one important factor (Turner et al., 2008). Research points to durable disparities in inclusion based on class and race within higher education (Arum, Roksa, Cruz, & Silver, 2018). While there are various explanations for disparate college experiences, theories of cultural capital offer insight. Drawing on the work of Bourdieu (1983/1986), scholars have demonstrated that disparities in cultural capital—in the form of knowledge, comfort, and familiarity with postsecondary institutions—undermine access to graduate education (e.g., Kiyama, 2010; Posselt, 2016).
PROGRAM STRUCTURE AND ASSESSMENT
Drawing on these insights, the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP; see https://curry.virginia.edu/faculty-research/join-us/summer-undergraduate-research-program-surp) at the University of Virginia attempts to address inequalities in the pipeline to graduate education and faculty careers. SURP was designed to prepare students from underrepresented racial and socioeconomic groups—including Students of Color, low-income, and first-generation college students—for graduate study in education research by developing confidence with skills and academic practices to support their transition to graduate school. The SURP admissions process identifies interns with demonstrated interest in and commitment to graduate [End Page 663] education. For example, in the preprogram survey, one intern stated: "My main goal in life (academically and professionally) is to have a wide range of knowledge [on] conducting research and obtain an occupation in research. It is one of my main goals to obtain a PhD."
SURP originated in 2008 as a part of the Virginia Education Science Training program, funded by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences. Similar programs have been developed elsewhere (e.g., North Carolina Central University, New York University, Florida State University, and University of Texas–San Antonio). Despite the presence of such programs, there are few evaluations of the extent to which they generate cultural capital that can be leveraged in the pursuit of graduate education.
This article offers insights from pretest and posttest surveys taken before and after completing SURP by interns who participated from 2010 to 2017. Specifically, we focus on one aspect of cultural capital by considering whether participation increased interns' perceived confidence in research skills. Pretest and posttest data were gathered from 60 of 62 SURP interns. Of the respondents, 35% identified as Black (n = 21), 15% as Asian (9), 23% as Hispanic or Latinx (14), 20% as White (12), and 7% as multiracial or other (4). Eighty-seven percent identified as female (n = 52) and 13% as male (8). Participants were socioeconomically diverse: 43% of students came from families with annual incomes of $55,000 or less (n = 26) and 27% from families making $100,000 or more (16). Almost half (48%, n = 29) were first-generation college students. Students were entering their final year of college and ranged in age 20–24 years. Institutional Review Board approval was obtained to analyze data retrospectively.
With a commitment to increasing access to careers in research and education, SURP works to help students develop competence and comfort with a variety of skill...