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“We Do Science Here”: Underrepresented Students’ Interactions with Faculty in Different College Contexts


  • All of the authors are affiliated with the Higher Education and Organizational Change program, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, UCLA. This study was made possible by the support of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH Grant Numbers 1 R01 GMO71968–01 and R01 GMO71968–05 as well as the National Science Foundation, NSF Grant Number 0757076. This independent research and the views expressed here do not indicate endorsement by the sponsors.

Sylvia Hurtado, 405 Hilgard Ave., 3005 Moore Hall, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095–1521 [e-mail:].


Faculty members play a key role in the identification and training of the next generation of scientific talent. In the face of the need to advance and diversify the scientific workforce, we examine whether and how specific institutional contexts shape student interactions with faculty. We conducted a mixed methods study to understand institutional contextual differences in the experiences of aspiring scientists. Data from a qualitative five-campus case study and a quantitative longitudinal study of students from over 117 higher education institutions were analyzed to determine how aspiring scientists interact with faculty and gain access to resources that will help them achieve their educational goals. Findings indicate that important structural differences exist between institutions in shaping students’ interactions with faculty. For example, students at more selective institutions typically have less frequent, less personal interactions with faculty whereas Black students at historically Black colleges and universities report having more support and frequent interactions with faculty.

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