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Abstract Title: Multiple perspectives on graduate admissions and diversity in physics
Abstract: Developing graduate admission practices that embrace gender and racial/ethnic diversity may help to diversify the physics community. However, the physics community has consistently lagged other STEM communities in supporting and improving diversity at the graduate level (amongst other levels). Graduate admission practices have been identified as a significant barrier to diversification. In this talk symposium, we present a collection of studies that explore admission practices and diversity considerations in graduate physics. Our studies capture multiple perspectives on graduate admissions from undergraduate physics majors, physics faculty, admissions committee members, and unsuccessful graduate applicants. We highlight typical admissions practices as well as discuss the possibilities of improving admissions by understanding and explicating faculty mindset in graduate admissions. Also, we discuss successful under-represented applicants' initial experiences of enculturation in their respective departments. This symposium provides insight about graduate admissions and post-admissions to empower stakeholders to take informed and effective actions related to admissions.
Abstract Type: Talk Symposium

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Deepa Chari
STEM Transformation Institute, Florida International University, Miami, FL
8951, SW 72nd Street, 207
Miami, FL 33173

Symposium Specific Information

Moderator: Deepa Chari
Presentation 1 Title: Examining undergraduate students' views of graduate admissions
Presentation 1 Authors: Geoff Potvin, STEM Transformation Institute, Florida International University, Miami, FL & Department of Physics, Florida International University, Miami, FL

Deepa Chari, STEM Transformation Institute, Florida International University, Miami, FL
Presentation 1 Abstract: Students' perceptions of graduate admissions processes (e.g. concerns about high application costs, perceptions of biased decision-making, financial risks involved, etc) may significantly influence students' choices towards graduate school, including the possibility of not even applying because of perceived barriers, especially for students traditionally marginalized from graduate physics. For students who nonetheless apply to graduate school, decisions about which graduate degree to pursue (MS or PhD) and which graduate school to choose may be influenced by socio-economic factors, career expectations and interests, and prior academic and research experiences.  In this talk, we present the results of our analysis of the Post-Graduation Career Intentions (PGCI) survey.  The PGCI was developed to understand, amongst other things, upper division physics majors' perceptions about admissions practices and graduate education. This survey captured data from over 1000 physics majors in academic year 2016-2017 from across the U.S.
Presentation 2 Title: Fixed and growth mindset in physics graduate admissions
Presentation 2 Authors: Rachel E. Scherr, Department of Physics, Seattle Pacific University
Abigail Pershing, American Physical Society
Monica Plisch, Department of Education and Diversity, American Physical Society
Theodore Hodapp, Department of Education and Diversity, American Physical Society
Presentation 2 Abstract: In light of the evidence that standard physics graduate admissions practices tend to exclude women and racial/ethnic minorities from the discipline, we investigate (a) what students physics graduate programs seek to admit and (b) what practices are associated with these admissions goals. Analysis of interviews with physics faculty suggests that some seek to admit students that they judge to have innate physics talent, measured primarily by a student's undergraduate grades and scores on the GRE. These faculty members express an overall "fixed intelligence" mindset, in which intelligence is understood as an inherent capacity or potential. Others seek to admit students who they believe can grow into physics achievement with effort, evaluating applicants by measures that may include passion for physics, determination, and coping with adversity. These faculty members express an overall "growth mindset," in which intelligence is understood in terms of acquired knowledge and effort.
Presentation 3 Title: Graduate students' enculturation in physics departments
Presentation 3 Authors: Deepa Chari, STEM Transformation Institute, Florida International University, Miami, FL

Geoff Potvin, STEM Transformation Institute, Florida International University, Miami, FL & Department of Physics, Florida International University, Miami, FL
Presentation 3 Abstract: Many members of the physics community have noted the importance of facilitating the adjustment of graduate students to the cultural and academic demands of graduate school and research.  We study students' experiences at the beginning of their graduate studies to identify which practices are valued by students in their enculturation to their programs and to the physics community. We interviewed 14 first-year graduates from sites associated to the APS Bridge Program, a national effort to improve underrepresented students' participation in physics. Our analysis focuses on students' interpretation of their departmental culture, their social and professional relationships with faculty and other students, and the connections to their particular graduate school experiences.  Amongst the findings we will report, we note that a strong sense of camaraderie amongst bridge students and bridge mentors was reported by many participants, and that participants report the high value they place on shared space to their enculturation.
Presentation 4 Title: Identifying barriers to diversity in graduate physics programs - Pre-admissions
Presentation 4 Authors: Geraldine L. Cochran, Rutgers University
Erika E.A. Brown, American Physical Society
Theodore Hodapp, Department of Education and Diversity, American Physical Society
Presentation 4 Abstract: Historically, access to education in the U.S. has not been equitable. Furthermore, intersectionality, the interaction of multiple identities, results in educational experiences that vary widely for diverse groups of students with implications for the recruitment of future students. To better understand barriers to ethnic/racial minority students participating in graduate education a study has been conducted through the APS Bridge Program, a program designed to increase the number of ethnic/racial minorities earning PhDs in physics. In phase one of this study, we analyzed student responses to an application question regarding why they chose not to apply to graduate physics programs. To further understand the barriers identified in the first phase of this study, we interviewed nine participants in the 2016 Cohort of the APS Bridge Program. The results of this study have implications for a variety of stakeholders interested in broadening participation in graduate physics education.