Two recent graduates recognized at SREB conference

Minority teaching may be getting a leg up from some recent Tech graduates. The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), a nonprofit organization that advises state policy makers and leaders on education policy in the South, recently recognized Tech Ph.D. alumni Kwaku Eason and Leanne Metcalfe for their commitment to increasing diversity in teaching at the university level.

Eason and Metcalfe were honored along with eight other recent graduates at the Compact for Faculty Diversity’s Institute on Teaching and Mentoring Conference. The conference was held from Oct. 23 to 26 in Tampa, Fla. It is the nation’s largest minority Ph.D. student gathering and is held to promote networking among minorities with doctorate degrees and students hoping to attain their doctorates. At the conference, there are workshops on professional development, networking events and even interview sessions for faculty positions at campuses around the country.

The two alumni were recognized for completing their Ph.D.s as part of the SREB State Doctoral Scholars Program, which is designed to increase the number of minority faculty members on college campuses in the South.

Those honored are given a plaque to celebrate their achievements and granted the opportunity to speak about the experiences that led to their decision to pursue their doctorate degrees.

The SREB Doctoral Scholars Program was developed with support from the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Ford Foundation as part of a nationwide initiative, called the Compact for Faculty Diversity, to increase the number of minority Ph.D.s and to encourage them to seek full-time faculty positions.

“All this is kind of ground breaking. Until we started this program about 15 years ago, the only minority Ph.D. holders in the South had finished either at historically black schools or had gone to school in other parts of the country,” said Alan Richard, director of communications at SREB.

“We had a dire shortage of minority faculty members here and we still do, even with the gains that we have made,” Richard added.

Currently, more than one third of students on college campuses nationally are considered racial or ethnic minority students, but only small percentages of faculty at universities are minorities: approximately five percent are African-American, three percent are Hispanic and roughly one percent are American Indian.

Programs like the one offered by SREB are trying to rectify this great divide between minority students who study at universities and those who eventually become professors at them.

After minority applicants are accepted into a doctorate degree program, they become eligible to apply for the SREB Doctoral Scholars Program. Participants in the SREB program are provided with the possibility of five years’ worth of tuition and fees to complete their Ph.D., as well as a $15,000 per year living stipend, professional development support and expense-free attendance to the Compact for Faculty Diversity’s Institute on Teaching and Mentoring Conference.

Participants are also assigned a mentor to help guide them through the process of gaining a doctoral degree. Candidates who complete the program are expected to go on to become a full-time faculty member at a secondary institution.

The hope of the SREB program is that by providing continuous assistance to minority students trying to attain a Ph.D., the percentage of minority faculty will increase. This would create a wealth of mentors who will be able to support future minority Ph.D. candidates on university campuses.

“The whole point of our program is to encourage gifted minority students to consider college teaching as a career … we desperately need to have this pool of talent as college faculty members and mentors to our diverse student bodies,” Richard said.

After completing her doctorate in biomedical engineering this past summer, Metcalfe took a position at Tech as the associate director of the Center for Biostatistics and Data Management.

Eason completed his doctorate in Mechanical Engineering, and has not yet reported to SREB what he intends to do for post-doctorate work.