Helping underrepresented doctoral students of color thrive in the broader MIT community | MIT News

The MIT University Center for Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM) was started in 2015 with an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant that facilities on the recruitment, retention, and educational results of underrepresented doctoral college students of colour in 5 parts within just the University of Engineering: the departments of Biological Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Pc Science (EECS), and Mechanical Engineering, and the Institute for Health-related Engineering and Science/Harvard-MIT Plan in Wellbeing Sciences and Technology.

Promising PhD candidates are recruited for the UCEM program, and as soon as enrolled obtain monetary assist, mentorship, and experienced development teaching as very well as entry to a broad and various professional community. 

UCEM engages candidates by means of the full procedure of “thinking about a PhD, receiving in and executing a PhD, and then exiting the PhD,” suggests Leslie Kolodziejski, UCEM principal investigator and professor of electrical engineering in the Section of Electrical Engineering and Pc Science (EECS). Over the existence of UCEM as a result significantly, 83 scholars have been supported, with 58 scholars currently in the software.

A valued space at MIT

UCEM Scholar Jean Carlos Serrano Flores SM ’18 PhD ’21, a graduate of the Section of Mechanical Engineering, remembers initially encountering UCEM at an MIT function just before he had formally approved his supply of admission.

“I had two students from [UCEM] right chat to me prior to my final decision,” Serrano Flores states. “UCEM made me truly feel much a lot more secure that I was heading someplace wherever I’d be welcome … and supported.”

Danielle Olson ’14, SM ’19, PhD ’21, also a UCEM scholar and a graduate of EECS, names the UCEM funding as being an important component of her choice to go to MIT. She also stated that she’s appreciated the flexibility of the funding, which can be used to show up at conferences and for analysis bills that aren’t protected beneath lab funding.

But both Olson and Serrano Flores emphasize the worth of the local community and mentorship components of the UCEM program. UCEM students get to know just about every other as a result of seminars, just one-on-a single mentoring, conferences, and other UCEM events, these types of as typical scholar lunches and social things to do.

Serrano Flores describes seminars ranging from producing unique facets of a scholar’s educational profession to navigating interpersonal relationships with advisors and friends to controlling racial biases that graduate learners of colour knowledge in academia.

“We’re all from underrepresented backgrounds,” states Serrano Flores. “Being in a place with everyone that understands the experiences that you would go [through] alongside the way, and how challenging it is to definitely deal with them in today’s environment, was really excellent.”

Olson feels equally.

“I felt definitely firsthand in my initially several years of graduate school that it is really genuinely quick to come to feel like you could slide amongst the cracks if you don’t have guidance in place,” she says.

Olson says she was capable to entry one particular-on-one assistance as a result of UCEM, in addition to finding room to talk about prevalent problems these types of as “imposter syndrome.”

“I would not automatically go to a network celebration in my neighborhood of study to talk about individuals matters,” she states. “But [at UCEM] you have these areas the place you can not only have genuine conversations … but also get approaches for addressing these points.”

Bianca Lepe is a fourth-year PhD prospect in the Department of Organic Engineering, a UCEM scholar, and the Graduate University student Council’s diversity, equity, and inclusion chair. She states that the networking opportunities at UCEM helped her get the “lay of the land,” so that she could more successfully participate in addressing educational racism at MIT.

“I am on the steering committee for the Strategic Motion Approach that is becoming developed around variety, fairness, and inclusion,” Lepe suggests. “A large amount of the discussions and lived encounters that I have had [with] my fellow UCEM students has been really valuable in making the priorities … beneath the formal MIT strategic program.”

Increasing representation in academia

In accordance with the Sloan Foundation aim to increase representation in tutorial school positions, Kolodziejski states that UCEM scholars show up at the Institute on Instructing and Mentoring convention two times in the course of their tenure at MIT. The meeting is a three-working day crash study course in the fundamentals of currently being a professor, and handles matters ranging from mentoring college students to composing proposals to presenting scholarship and providing shows for employment.

Kolodziejski says that participation in this conference can be pretty clarifying for college students, and for people who want to go after an tutorial path, it will help outfit them with the applications they require upon graduating. However, Kolodziejski tends to make it distinct that UCEM scholars are below no obligation to take an educational path.

For a lot more info about UCEM, or if you are fascinated in getting to be a UCEM scholar, you should stop by the UCEM web-site.

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