The National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) and Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) are collaborating to encourage proposals that would improve and support student transition to and subsequent success in doctoral programs in the mathematical sciences. Participating divisions within the two directorates are the Divisions of Mathematical Sciences (DMS), Graduate Education (DGE), Undergraduate Education (DUE), and Human Resource Development (HRD).
Current data indicate that both the percentage of women and the percentage of students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups entering doctoral programs and receiving doctoral degrees in the mathematical sciences have remained relatively constant since 2004, and these levels are well below the representation of these groups in the general population. At the same time, the scientific community has developed a knowledge base of successful techniques for training and encouraging students to achieve success in advanced mathematical study, in particular students from underrepresented groups. It is time to use this knowledge base to create inclusive, wide-reaching, and sustainable ways to enhance U.S. student preparation for and success in doctoral programs, with an eye towards both academic and non-academic career pathways.
Desired parameters for proposals
NSF invites proposals for projects designed to encourage and prepare U.S. students to pursue and succeed in graduate doctoral study in the mathematical sciences generally, with a particular emphasis on broadening participation among students from underrepresented populations, including racial/ethnic groups underrepresented in mathematics and statistics, individuals with disabilities, and women. While proposed projects need not focus solely on members of underrepresented groups, they should utilize evidence-based techniques known to be effective for students from these groups.
Proposals submitted in response to this Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) should describe projects that are scalable to serve large numbers of students without large increases in cost and sustainable, that is, have continued impact without on-going large influxes of grant funding.
Projects that develop partnerships among faculty, departments, and graduate schools, as well as those that leverage technology are expected. To achieve the dual aims of (1) scalability and (2) sustainability, it is envisioned that most proposed strategies will also: (3) reach students predominantly at their home institutions, with limited student travel required, and (4) have the potential to create systemic change regarding how students are prepared for success in graduate school, particularly doctoral programs. All projects should contain a rigorous evaluation plan that includes assessment of impact on students and the institution.
To align with the NSF research mission, proposals should involve mathematical sciences research as part of student training, and/or educational research that produces new knowledge to help the community understand for whom and under what circumstances proposed activities are effective in preparing a diverse population of students to be successful in graduate school.
Proposals should address one or more of the following three components (examples under each component are meant to be illustrative and not mandatory or comprehensive):
Curriculum, Content, and Careers. Develop innovative ideas/activities designed to provide students with core skills that are key for success in graduate school and expose students to the wide range of career possibilities in the mathematical sciences. For example:
Online courses with introductory graduate-level material to reach undergraduate students who cannot access this material at their home institutions;
Enhanced opportunities for undergraduate research; or
Activities that emphasize ways in which careers in the mathematical sciences can provide opportunities for professional collaboration and contribution towards solving complex societal problems.
Environment and Confidence. Undertake institutional transformation activities intended to create a supportive and inclusive environment that encourages the participation of underrepresented groups. For example:
Environment and Confidence. Undertake institutional transformation activities intended to create a supportive and inclusive environment that encourages the participation of underrepresented groups. For example:Environment and Confidence. Undertake institutional transformation activities intended to create a supportive and inclusive environment that encourages the participation of underrepresented groups. For example:
Faculty training on implicit bias, stereotype threat, and the importance of a growth mindset;
Processes to recruit majors early in their academic careers, encourage successful participation in advanced coursework, and facilitate applications to graduate programs while recognizing potential talent and interest from students with nontraditional backgrounds or preparation; or
Opportunities for students to solve challenging and tractable problems and receive appropriate, timely, consistent, and constructive feedback.
Community and Social Capital. Encourage, build, and support sustainable networks and communities of scholars and educators. For example:
Community and Social Capital. Encourage, build, and support sustainable networks and communities of scholars and educators. For example:Community and Social Capital. Encourage, build, and support sustainable networks and communities of scholars and educators. For example:
- Workshops or networks for faculty dedicated to the improvement of mentoring;
- Development of structured communication channels between mathematical sciences faculty and graduate admissions teams;
- Development of mechanisms for students to engage in mathematical sciences-related discussions with peers outside of the classroom, and potentially outside of their home institutions; or
- Development of local, regional, or national support networks for undergraduate students that are sustainable as students enter graduate school and the workforce.
Note: Projects addressing the Community and Social Capital component are encouraged to collaborate with current or future NSF INCLUDES projects targeting underrepresented students that are building local, regional, or national networks designed to support graduate studies at the doctoral level in mathematical sciences. For more information on this NSF-wide initiative, see https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/nsfincludes/index.jsp and this news release about the first cohort of awardees: https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=189706.