Report Proposes Post-Bacc Programs to Increase Diversity in Academia

Despite increases in diversity in undergraduate education, diversity in academic faculty lags behind. With causes ranging from barriers to access and affordability in education, limited opportunities for mentorship and institutional stagnancy, this issue is multi-faceted and presents difficulties in alleviating.

In the Ithaka S+R report “Post-Baccalaureate Bridge Programs: An Underutilized Tool for Strengthening Faculty Diversity,” authored by Senior Advisor Eugene Tobin, Senior Researcher Daniel Rossman, Senior Analyst Christy McDaniel, Vice President of Educational Transformation Martin Kurzweil and Managing Director Catherine Bond Hill, the underrepresentation of diversity in academia and mechanisms to increase it are discussed.

“This analysis of the challenges and opportunities facing efforts to diversify the faculty ranks underscores the disconnection between democracy’s needs and higher education’s efforts to address those needs,” the report reads. Ithaka S+R is the research arm of the ITHAKA not-for-profit which aims to help “the academic community use digital technologies to preserve the scholarly record and to advance research and teaching in sustainable ways.”

The report, released last month, discusses how programs, including post-baccalaureate (post-bacc) programs which seek to prepare students from diverse or low-income backgrounds for graduate school admissions, are few in number, highly competitive and primarily focus their attention on students from selective schools. Additionally, the academic job market has been shrinking for decades, contributing to disparities in the field.

Students fill all the seats in a lecture hall
Students of diverse backgrounds are less likely to pursue a graduate education. (Photo: Unsplash)

The authors of the report recommend the establishment of post-bacc programs targeting low-income and students of color would help prepare students for entry and completion of graduate school programs. Such programs impart skills including preparation for graduate school coursework and research, networking and mentorship opportunities and information about financial affordability.

“We recommend the creation of a post-baccalaureate bridge program by a coalition of leading undergraduate colleges and distinguished research universities linked by a shared commitment to public engagement and full participation, regardless of a student’s identity, background, or reputation of the degree-granting undergraduate institution,” the report reads.

The authors added that they are interested, as part of their organization, in collaborating with leaders in higher education and those involved with philanthropy to increase diversity in post-bacc programs and look to less-selective schools.

Eugene Tobin is a senior advisor to Ithaka S+R focused on Educational Transformation. He previously spent 16 years at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as a senior advisor and program officer, with focuses including cultural diversity, presidential leadership, and institutional collaboration. He also served 23 years at Hamilton College, with a decade spent as the president.

Daniel Rossman is a senior researcher at Ithaka S+R in Educational Transformation. He previously worked for a New York State Assemblyman.

Christy McDaniel is a senior analyst at Ithaka S+R as part of the Educational Transformation team. She has quantitative and qualitative research experience covering K-12 and higher education, and previously taught elementary education.

Martin Kurzweil is the vice president of Educational Transformation at Ithaka S+R. His research experience spans the connections between education and policy. He previously clerked at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and worked as a litigator.

Catherine Bond Hill is the managing director at Ithaka S+R. She is an economist, with focuses on access to and affordability of higher education. She previously served as president of Vassar College, where she enacted need-blind admissions.

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Molly Gahagen

Molly Gahagen is a third-year student at Johns Hopkins University studying political science and international studies. She is currently the social science communications intern at SAGE Publishing.

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