Last year I took on/was-volunteered-for a new initiative by my department to recruit more underrepresented students in. I suspect it’s because I look and talk differently than the rest of the people here. My only caveat to leading this was that I wanted to develop the initiative from the ground-up myself. The goal of this is that there are a lot of kids graduating from local high schools all around our metro that 1. Aren’t coming to University of Phindustry, and 2. Aren’t majoring in STEMs. The surrounding area is mainly white, and the minority students that are here are already coming to either my school or a neighboring one. However, the neighboring one doesn’t have the type of program I’m in, so I have that working for me. So I split this into two focus areas, women and minorities.
To get women interested I have focused on getting them into my field specifically (more of applied than theoretical). If I can do this then the only local school is mine. The neighboring university doesn’t have a good applied program. Ultimately, if the kid is good enough to get into MIT they’re going there regardless. I specifically focus on recruiting girls interested in STEMs, just not sure which area they want to enter. Once I have them excited about my field I get them into the university to do some research for pay. The money comes from my grants. The majority of the recruiting is focused on girls so correspondingly more of my time is spent on this. And this has been working very well. Every single one of my recruits has come into my school and are getting involved in research already this semester (though none in my lab). If this is successful I’m going to write an outreach grant so I don’t have to use my own grant funding for these ‘employees’.
For minority students, it’s a little different. A lot of students have no idea what to do for their lives (shit, I still don’t). So I have to recruit very broadly. Instead of going to science fairs I start with community centers. I have to sell them that science and math are cool. And the vast majority like the technology but hate the science. I don’t have time to convince everyone, but there is a subset of interested kids. Especially when I mention that they can get paid. But I can’t keep them interested. I’ve tried taking them on tours, showing technology, getting amped, bringing by students, having local events, and talking to parents and I just can’t connect. There has been just one student interested. I’m visiting a program a little ways away that has had good success since there’s a conference there next month, so hopefully, they’ll shed some helpful tips.