(336d) Diversifying the U.S. Professoriate: How to Expand the Academic Pipeline? | AIChE

(336d) Diversifying the U.S. Professoriate: How to Expand the Academic Pipeline?


Yusuf, M. - Presenter, Stanford University
Diversifying the U.S. professoriate today is essential for the intellectual health of higher education. Diversity of a university’s students and faculty affects its strength and efficiency. Research shows that a diverse student body and faculty contributes to their university’s creative and innovative ecosystem1. Yet diversity brings its own set of challenges. Underrepresented minority students (URMs) continue to struggle with identity, isolation, and representation, and too often, leave their academic environment2.

According to diversity research3-4, role-models and mentors who share cultural/racial/socio-economic/ethnic identities contribute to their students’ desire to pursue similar career paths and motivate them to remain resilient. As a minority student in U.S. universities and as a beneficiary of excellent mentors in STEM fields, I wouldn’t have been able to overcome my challenges and pursue graduate school at Stanford without the support of my mentors. My unique experiences as an international exchange student from Pakistan at the University of Mississippi several years ago and as the only Muslim woman in my current PhD cohort have enabled me to understand some of the socio-economic, religious, and cultural struggles of women and URMs in STEM fields. My experiences also exemplify the power of diversity in U.S. academia and the need to create an academic culture where all students feel comfortable.

During my presentation, I will talk about some of these experiences and share my insights with fellow students to help them navigate their own academic journeys. I will also discuss specific examples of being mentored that will help other mentors/advisors show sensitivity to the barriers faced by their URMs. As an aspiring faculty member, I plan to implement these best practices in my own research laboratory one day and continue advocating for URMs in the scientific community.


  1. Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute, “Benefits and Challenges of Diversity in Academic Settings,”: https://wiseli.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/662/2018/11/Benefits_Challenges.pdf .
  2. Brunsma, David L., David G. Embrick, and Jean H. Shin. "Graduate students of color: Race, racism, and mentoring in the white waters of academia."Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1 (2017): 1-13.
  3. Ebony McGee, “Mentoring Underrepresented Students in STEMM: A Survey and Discussion,” Committee on Effective Mentoring in STEM: https://www.nap.edu/resource/25568/McGee%20-%20STEMM%20Mentoring%20Identity.pdf .
  4. Aikens, Melissa L., et al. "Race and gender differences in undergraduate research mentoring structures and research outcomes."CBE—Life Sciences Education 2 (2017): ar34.