Cal-Bridge Mission and Goals
PHOTO (above): 2014 Cal-Bridge Scholars.
The mission of Cal-Bridge is to advance undergraduate astronomy research and education among traditionally underrepresented groups (including women and Hispanic students) in order to promote their participation and advancement and increase their numbers in PhD programs in astronomy and related fields.
Cal-Bridge, now entering its 6th year, is a consortium of Physics and Astronomy faculty from a network of 9 UC campuses, 15 CSU campuses, and over 30 community colleges in both northern and southern California. The program utilizes research-validated selection methods to identify “diamonds-in-the-rough” - students from underrepresented groups who display strong "soft skills", along with academic potential - and provides them with the support necessary to successfully matriculate to a PhD program.
Once selected, Cal-Bridge Scholars benefit from financial support, intensive, joint mentoring by CSU and UC faculty, professional development workshops, and exposure to research opportunities at the participating UC campuses.
Key elements of Cal-Bridge include:
- Scholars are selected from the CSUs using a wide range of research-based metrics (leadership, communication skills, research experience, grit,…)
- Three years of full scholarship funding: last two years of undergraduate and first year of graduate tuition and fees
- Assignment of two mentors: one from a participating UC campus, one from the student’s home CSU campus
- Extensive mentoring in academics and professional development to assist in complete their bachelor’s degrees and applying for graduate school
- Summer and academic year research opportunities at the participating UC campuses
- Opportunities to present results at regional and national conferences
In the National Academy of Sciences 2010 Decadal Survey of Astronomy, “New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics,” the authors noted that, while Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans constitute 27 percent of the U.S. population, they account for less than 4 percent of physics and astronomy PhDs awarded in the United States and only 3 percent of faculty members. Women are similarly underrepresented in PhDs earned (20% in physics, 40% in astronomy) and faculty positions held (14% in physics, 17% in astronomy). One of the top strategies recommended to overcome this underrepresentation is “Partnerships of community colleges and minority-serving institutions with research universities and with national centers and laboratories.” Cal-Bridge is such a program. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), in their February 2012 report state, “Federal agencies should encourage projects that establish collaborations between research universities and community colleges or other institutions that do not have research programs,” suggesting that programs like Cal-Bridge are a national priority in STEM education.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. AST-1322432.