UMass to begin graduate fellowship program to increase and retain diversity in STEM fields

The fellowships will provide two years of financial support, a mentoring program and funding to present work at academic conferences


Collegian File Photo

By Will Mallas, Assistant News Editor

The University of Massachusetts Graduate School is set to start a fellowship program designed to increase the participation of historically underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

The Spaulding-Smith Fellowship Program will provide 20 aspiring graduate students with two years of financial support and access to extra-curricular activities. In addition, the fellowships will provide a “multi-layered mentoring program,” as well as funding to present work at academic conferences and opportunities to attend various workshops, according to UMass News and Media Relations.

The program is named after Major Franklin Spaulding and Elizabeth Hight Smith. Spaulding was the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from UMass and earn an agronomy doctorate degree in 1935, and Smith was the first woman to earn an advanced degree from the University when she earned a M.S. in 1905.

“I am delighted to recognize the university’s rich tradition in diversity and inclusion by naming the Graduate School’s new fellowship program for underrepresented students after two distinguished graduate alumni who shattered social barriers while cultivating prominent academic careers,” said Graduate School Dean Barbara Krauthamer in the press release.

“Following the example set by these groundbreaking figures, the Spaulding-Smith STEM Fellowship Program will increase diversity on our campus and in the professoriate,” she added.

The program will be run by Dr. Funmi Adebayo, assistant dean for Inclusion and Engagement at the UMass Graduate School. Adebayo was appointed to the position in June of this year.

One of Adebayo’s main objectives in her tenure is to improve the Office of Inclusion and Engagement’s ability to recruit and retain students from “historically underrepresented populations,” through the establishment of fellowship programs similar to the Spaulding-Smith Fellowship Program, according to a press release announcing her appointment. Additionally, she hopes to form partnerships with “academic departments and other university entities” to help recruit diverse students.

Adebayo remains optimistic that her new role will bring positive change to UMass.

“I am thrilled to join the academic community at the University of Massachusetts Amherst,” Adebayo said. “Together we will work to better position our highly talented students for professional and academic success while further elevating the university’s stature as a leading force for diversity, inclusion and public engagement within academia.”

In the STEM fields at UMass, a numerical disparity in minority participation exists.

According to a Daily Hampshire Gazette article, “there were 556 STEM faculty members in 2017; only 156 of them were female and less than a quarter were people of color,” according to statistics provided by the University.

In addition, the article notes “the university recently commissioned a report looking at the culture in its polymer science and engineering department, where only three of 25 total faculty members are women.”

In an effort to alleviate the University’s problems with diversity, Adebayo is confident the fellowships will help the diverse students of UMass’ STEM graduate programs.

“I greatly look forward to implementing the many exciting components of the Spaulding-Smith Fellowship Program in the service of our talented STEM students from diverse backgrounds,” she said.

“I am confident that it will help our fellows thrive as they pursue their academic and professional goals,” she added.

Will Mallas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @willmallas.