SENATE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATIONAL EQUITY AND CAMPUS ENVIRONMENT
Millennium Scholars Program
The Pennsylvania State University Millennium Scholars Program (MSP) is a very selective merit-based program designed to increase the number of U.S. research scientists and engineers with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Ph.Ds. Achieving this goal requires that the program draw upon the full diversity inherent in the student population and so the MSP is open to all high-achieving STEM students who are committed to both becoming leaders in STEM and increasing the diversity of leadership in STEM fields. The MSP was originally launched by the College of Engineering and the Eberly College of Science in 2013 with support for the summer bridge program coming from the Office of Educational Equity and the Provost. From the beginning the PSU program partnered with the Meyerhoff program from the University of Maryland in Baltimore County (UMBC) and in 2014 additional support for the program and its assessment was obtained from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the form of a grant for the “Meyerhoff Adaptation Experiment.” In 2015 the program was re-organized under the Provost and now includes the Colleges of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Agricultural Sciences, and Information Sciences and Technology, in addition to Engineering and Science.
The Penn State Millennium Scholars Program is modeled after the Meyerhoff Program at UMBC, which has achieved unparalleled success in preparing students of diverse backgrounds for academic and professional success in science and engineering. Since 1993, the UMBC program has graduated more than 1,000 students, who are more than five times as likely to pursue and complete advanced degrees in STEM than students offered admission to the program who declined and went elsewhere (Summers and Hrabowski, 2006; Maton et al., 2012). Like the Meyerhoff Program, the Millennium Scholars Program is much more than a scholarship. It is a program designed to produce cohorts of STEM Scholars that have internalized the program’s core values and by doing so have equipped themselves to be the compassionate leaders needed to change the face of STEM in the U.S. The program’s core values of excellence, inclusion, discipline, collaboration, service, and leadership are lived out by every member of the Millennium Scholars family; students, staff and faculty. Program activities are intentionally designed to reinforce these and related values such as accountability, professionalism, character, resilience, respect, and integrity.
This Millennium Scholar’s experience starts off with an intensive 6-week summer bridge program, with typical days that begin at 6:45 am when all muster for breakfast together and end at 10 pm after a 3-hour tutored math study hall. This schedule is maintained 6 days a week, with most Sundays free until 5:30 pm when students gather to eat together and proceed to cohort meetings and study groups until 10 pm. During the Summer Bridge, scholars complete seven credits of coursework in mathematics and honors English, as well as hands on training in chemistry and engineering workshops. Additional seminars address time management, study strategies, cultural awareness (World in Conversation), professional development, and problem solving skills. Once a week scholars meet with a top University administrator who emphasize and personalize that week’s “pillar of success”. In addition, weekly field trips to destinations such as the NIH, Boeing, Johns Hopkins, and the Franklin Institute expose students to what it means to be a leader in STEM and helps to expand the Scholar’s scientific and cultural horizons. But most importantly, the summer bridge builds a cohesive cohort of scholars that will continue to live, work and learn together at Penn State and support each other’s success. When Scholars join the MSP they are given two priorities. The first is to excel academically, and the second is to make sure their entire cohort excels academically.
Millennium scholars live together on campus for their first three years in special living options where cohort interactions and group study are facilitated. By forming a cohort of ambitious students in a tight-knit learning community, in which students support, inspire, and encourage one another to achieve their full potential, the program addresses some of the traditional pitfalls that have led to low graduation rates and limited diversity within STEM programs across the country. The scholars are supported by a committed team of advisors with whom they meet regularly as individuals and in groups. During their freshman and sophomore years advising focuses on academic success, obtaining research experiences, appropriate socialization to PSU, and reinforcement of the importance of a PhD to become leaders in their chosen fields. The MSP advising team works closely with advisors from the participating Colleges to assure that the scholars are not only firmly embedded in their cohort and the MSP family, but that they are also active members of their home departments. They are in the cohort together as much as possible through their introductory calculus, chemistry and physics courses and tend to self-organize and stay together as they progress further towards their degrees. Students in the older cohorts work with students in younger cohorts as both tutors and peer mentors. A research thesis is required of all Millennium Scholars and the program works closely with the students and academic colleges to get all scholars involved in both academic year research in labs at Penn State, and summer research experiences here and elsewhere as early in their undergraduate experiences as possible. As the scholars enter their junior and senior years the advising shifts towards final preparation for, and matriculation into, the top graduate programs in their field.
There are currently 85 students active in the MSP, 69% of the scholars are African American, Hispanic or Native American, and 58% are women. In our most recent cohort of 29 students, 86% are from underrepresented minorities and 69% are women. About half of the first two cohorts are also in Schreyer Honor’s College (SHC) and a similar trend in the next two cohorts is expected when those already in SHC are joined by those that Gateway in. The program has had a 100% success rate with the first two cohorts in the gateway math, physics and chemistry courses for their majors and also succeeded in involving 100% of each cohort in at least one summer research experience and academic year research experience. The GPA of cohort 1 is 3.62 after three years. Cohort 2 has a GPA of 3.59 after two years and cohort three has a GPA of 3.56 after their freshman year.
The first cohort of Millennium Scholars are now seniors. Although hard data on matriculation into graduate programs does not yet exist, all 15 of the remaining scholars from the original cohort of 20 are on track to enter either a Ph.D. or M.D. – Ph.D. program next fall. The remaining 5 students that left the program are on track to at least graduate with a BS from either PSU or elsewhere this year. The MSP has already begun to attract recruiters from several top programs (including Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and MIT) that visit PSU primarily to recruit Millennium Scholars to their REU and graduate programs.
Maton, K. I., S. A. Pollard, T. V. McDougall Weise, and F. Hrabowski III. 2012. Meyerhoff Scholars Program: A strengths-based, institution-wide approach to increasing diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine 79: 610-623.
Summers, M. F. and F. A. Hrabowski III. 2006. Preparing Minority Scientists and Engineers. Science 311: 1870-1871.
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATIONAL EQUITY AND CAMPUS ENVIRONMENT
- Kimberly Blockett
- Julia Bryan, Vice Chair
- Dwight Davis
- Erinn Finke
- Timothy Lawlor
- Robert Loeb, Chair
- John Malchow
- Adam Malek
- Dara Purvis
- Eileen Trauth
- Marcus Whitehurst