In the fall of 1988, the University of Maryland at Baltimore launched the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, an initiative originally aimed at increasing the number and success of Black students seeking to enter STEM fields. The initial (fall 1989) cohort consisted of nineteen Black men and the second cohort included Black women. Eventually, because of another legal challenge to racially-exclusive programs at the University of Maryland, the program began admitting students of other races, but approximately three-quarters of the roughly sixty students who have enrolled in each recent year have been from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

The Meyerhoff program has been a remarkable success; students who enroll in the program are five times as likely to go on to enroll in a doctorate or MD/PhD program than students who are accepted into the program but decline. Of roughly 1100 students who have graduated from the program, nearly half have gone on to earn doctorates (predominantly in STEM fields) or M.D.s, and another quarter have earned master’s degrees. This dramatically exceeds STEM achievement rates among graduates from far more elite schools.

Why does the Meyerhoff program work? There appear to be several ingredients. First, students receive extensive mentoring and academic support. This includes six full-time staff members dedicated to the program to support students with academics, mentor matching, internships, and graduate school placement.

Second, students are given extensive opportunities to actually engage in laboratory and research work, which makes the science curriculum more interesting, gives students an opportunity to develop concrete research topics and expertise, and builds strong credentials for doctoral programs (which often seek evidence that students can conduct independent research).

Third, Meyerhoff students are part of a strong peer network, with study groups and social activities, that provides a positive collaborative atmosphere and mutual support. Notably, each dimension of the Meyerhoff program can be seen as countering the dynamics that, according to research on the mismatch effect, can often harm the achievement of students receiving large preferences into elite universities.

List of Citations

University of Maryland Baltimore County, Meyerhoff Scholars Program,