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Supporting scientists from underrepresented minority backgrounds: Mapping developmental networks

Kimberly Griffin (University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)
Vicki Baker (Albion College, Albion, Michigan, USA)
KerryAnn O’Meara (University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)
Gudrun Nyunt (ADVANCE Program for Inclusive Excellence, University of Maryland, Hyattsville, Maryland, USA)
Tykeia Robinson (Association of American Colleges and Universities, Washington, DC, USA)
Candice L. Staples (University of Maryland, Orange, California, USA)

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education

ISSN: 2398-4686

Article publication date: 14 May 2018




The purpose of this study is to explore the developmental networks of graduate students of color participating in PROMISE, Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate program, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded graduate retention and support program. The authors specifically examine how underrepresented minority students gain access to needed supports through building individual mentoring relationships and broader networks of support.


The authors rely on a case study approach to explore developmental networks and support accessed by students participating in the PROMISE program. A total of 16 students of color in STEM fields from three institutions in the University of Maryland System have participated.


Study findings reveal that scientists from underrepresented backgrounds construct and draw from diverse developmental networks that include individuals from within and outside of the academic community. Key relationships include advisors; faculty with whom they share identities, peers in and outside of their programs; and administrators. Developers play distinct roles within the networks including shaping students’ emerging professional identities as scientists and providing psychosocial support. Student agency and initiative as well as faculty engagement and programs like PROMISE further enhanced student access to mentorship.

Research limitations/implications

This study offers unique insights into the nature, cultivation and resources gained from the relationships that make up the developmental networks of science graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds.


Traditional notions of mentoring and support, particularly in graduate education, highlight the role and importance of the student’s advisor in their growth and development. This study is unique in its focus on the multiple relationships students of color in science form. This study offers specific insight into the nature, construction and resources gained from developmental networks formed by a group of underrepresented minority students in STEM graduate education.



The authors would like to thank PROMISE, Maryland’s AGEP Program and the National Science Foundation for generous funding that supported this research. They would also like to recognize the work and support of Dr Renetta Tull, Dr Andrew Lounder and Erica Aparakakankanage throughout this process.


Griffin, K., Baker, V., O’Meara, K., Nyunt, G., Robinson, T. and Staples, C.L. (2018), "Supporting scientists from underrepresented minority backgrounds: Mapping developmental networks", Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 19-37.



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