Minority Student Preparation for STEM PhD Study: Impact of NSF Bridge to the Doctorate Programming Academic Article uri icon


  • The Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) project in 1991 as one of the six initial awardees. As part of these efforts and upon reaching eligibility, the TAMUS LSAMP applied for and received additional funding to support a Bridge to the Doctorate (BTD) program. BTD programming provides financial, educational, and social support to incoming STEM masters degree and PhD students for the first two years of their graduate study. BTD cohorts consist of up to 12 fellows who participate in a program of academic and professional development seminars and workshops. In project evaluation, annual interviews were conducted with the TAMUS BTD participants, the vast majority of whom were underrepresented minorities (92%). During the interviews, the BTD students were asked to discuss ten topics some of which addressed concerns specific to the implementation of the BTD project. This report considers answers provided in the five topic areas which have broader applicability: 1) the learning achieved by participants through participation in BTD, 2) the personal impact of participation in BTD, 3) the influence of BTD on informants educational goals, 4) the influence of BTD on informants career goals, and 5) barriers the BTD participants perceived to pursuing a PhD. Eighty project participants responded to the questions between 2009 and 2018. They were from eight distinct cohorts of BTD students and represented 32 different areas of STEM specialization. Qualitative analysis of their responses confirmed that students perceived the elements of the TAMUS BTD project to be efficacious and that there was a set of nine seminars from which participants consistently reported benefit. Additional findings were eight key areas in which learning was reported by participants, four areas in which the programming had personal impact, five influences on educational goals, nine impacts on career goals, and a detailed list of barriers graduate students who are underrepresented minorities (URM) perceive to pursuing a doctoral degree. The proven and easily replicated pattern of support programming, the demonstrated results of this programming, and insight into barriers URMs perceive to pursuing a STEM doctorate are immediately applicable to URM graduate student support at many institutions of higher education.

published proceedings

  • International Journal of Technology in Education and Science

author list (cited authors)

  • Preuss, M. D., Merriweather, S. P., Walton, S. D., & Butler-Purry, K. L.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Preuss, Michael D||Merriweather, Samuel P||Walton, Shannon D||Butler-Purry, Karen L

publication date

  • June 2020