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Bonding, Bridging, and Linking: Investigating Collaborative Approaches Towards Expanding the Representation of African American and Latinx Students Pursuing Graduate Study in STEM


This multi-site case study explored collaborative interpersonal and organizational relationships among university administrators, business leaders, and nonprofit stakeholders at three University of California campuses (UCLA, UC Berkeley, and UC Davis). These stakeholders engaged in efforts to expand African American and Latinx representation in STEM graduate programs. Inside California’s selective public research universities, African Americans and Latinx students comprise only 14 percent of graduate students enrolled across all disciplines. Globalization, shifting demographics, and scarce financial resources have shifted the landscape for diversity in higher education and tasked institutions within the UC system to develop strategies to achieve truly diverse student populations.

This study employed a theoretical framework based upon theories of social systems, collaborative complexity, and social capital to investigate URM recruitment for graduate study in a “STEM College.” Using a statewide sample drawn from participants linked to three University of California campuses, data was collected and analyzed from semi-structured interviews in order to compose three case studies. Case study is a valuable technique because of its rich detail. Moreover, case study allows the researcher to learn more about developing and implementing a new program or strategy.

There were four key findings from this research. First, stakeholders intentionally collaborated to achieve shared goals in conducting outreach to prospective underrepresented minority (URM) graduate students. Second, stakeholders collaborated to identify and provide research and job opportunities for URM students enrolled in STEM graduate programs. Third, the financial resources and power dynamics of business leaders’ relationships as alumni and with school leadership, gave them additional leverage to influence diversity strategies at the three campuses studied. Fourth, stakeholders collaborated in designing support services to mitigate social isolation many of the URM students encountered on the campuses studied. As a result of this study, campus administrators, business leaders, and nonprofit influencers and advocates now have information about multi-faceted, collaborative approaches designed to increase enrollment of African American and Latinx candidates in STEM graduate programs at UC campuses.

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