Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Diversity Digest Volume 7, Number 3

Diversity Digest
Volume 7,
Number 3

Download our print issue (PDF)
Diversity News
Diversity and Democracy:
the Unfinished Work
Dimensions of Diversity: Legal Lessons from the Decisions
Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Longhorn Scholars and the Opportunity Scholarship Program
Bridging the Gap: The ACE Program in Arizona
Aimed for Success: Meyerhoff Scholars Program
Campus Community Involvement
UCLA’s Success in Reaching Out
Student Experience
Rallying for Affirmative Action:
A Student Perspective
The Class is Half Empty: Report Supports Class-based Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action Resources

Aimed for Success: The Meyerhoff Scholars Program

By Lori Webster, editorial associate, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Global Initiatives, AAC&U

The University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) became a national model for minority achievement when it set out to address the greatest academic disparity between underrepresented minority students and their white and Asian counterparts—scholastic achievement in mathematics and sciences. In 1988, UMBC established the Meyerhoff Scholars Program to remedy the shortage of underrepresented minorities in the fields of science, mathematics, and engineering (SEM). The program is open to all accomplished high school seniors interested in pursuing graduate or professional study in the sciences, mathematics, or engineering, and who are committed to the advancement of minorities in the sciences and related fields.

The Meyerhoff Scholars Program was originally only open to African-American men and began admitting African-American women after its first year. Currently, all students, regardless of race or ethnic origin, are eligible to apply for the program—a result of the 1994 Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the Benjamin Banneker Scholarship Program at the University of Maryland College Park was unconstitutional because only African-American students could apply. Earnestine Baker, director of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, feels that this decision has strengthened the goals of the Program. “We now have a cadre of students across racial lines who understand the need for more minority students attaining degrees in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering fields,” says Baker. “All of our students have a better understanding of those issues affecting minority communities, such as health disparities, social differences, and the need for minority leadership.” As the program has diversified, 71 percent of Meyerhoff Scholars currently enrolled in the program are minority students.

The guiding principle of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program is high achievement. “Our program is about more than minority participation rates in science and mathematics,” according to Freeman Hrabowski, president of UMBC. “It is about doing what it takes to ensure that our students excel so that they can go on to the best graduate and professional schools and excel there as well.”

In order to accomplish excellence, a structured framework offers Meyerhoff Scholars the guidance and encouragement needed for success. After a competitive selection process, fewer than 100 students are chosen to begin the program during the summer before their first year of college. The six-week Summer Bridge Program acclimates the Scholars to college through enrollment in college-level courses and by developing support networks with other Meyerhoff Scholars. Once fall courses begin, each student is rigorously challenged through his/her academic coursework and the research opportunities available through the program. Students must major in a SEM field to remain in the program but they are encouraged to study broadly across disciplines.

The program opens up a wealth of opportunities for the students to apply what they have learned in their courses to real-life experience in the laboratory. Every Meyerhoff Scholar is exposed to real-life experience in the laboratory, beginning as early as freshman year. Through internships in faculty research laboratories and with off-campus organizations, such as the National Institutes of Health and AT&T Bell Laboratories, students are able to gain professional experience and receive advice and direction from mentors already in the field. Each scholar has ongoing contact with a mentor in his or her field of interest as a result of the internship program.

One of the key elements of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program is the accessibility of Meyerhoff Program staff, faculty, and President Hrabowski. Each is available to work with and advise students about their coursework, professional goals, or other obstacles that students may encounter. “The success of the program is largely dependent on the extent to which research faculty take ownership of the program. Minority staff responsible for the program cannot foster achievement alone without substantial faculty support. It is important that all faculty, not just minority faculty, take responsibility and address this critical American issue,” according to Hrabowski.

As a result of the support and commitment of UMBC, the Meyerhoff Program has experienced substantial success. Upon graduation, 95 percent of Meyerhoff Scholars immediately go on to professional and graduate schools to pursue a higher degree in science, engineering or mathematics. “A notion that inspires the Meyerhoff Program is that every group needs leaders. We are fostering academic achievers that will go on to become faculty members, doctors, and mentors that will inspire others,” concluded Hrabowski. With each class of graduating Meyerhoff Scholars that continues with its education, new role models and mentors are entering the field and proving to minority students that it is possible to achieve in the sciences and mathematics. It is working to narrow the gap between underrepresented minorities and their White and Asian counterparts.

For more information on the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, visit www.umbc.edu/Programs/Meyerhoff/.

Questions, comments, and suggestions regarding Diversity & Democracy should be directed to Kathryn Peltier Campbell at campbell@aacu.org.
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