URM science students face disparity despite higher graduation rate
SF State students continue to face a lack of diversity in science departments despite a recent increase in graduation rates for underrepresented minority students.
As the percentage of underrepresented minorities (URM) students graduating within six years in the College of Science and Engineering (CoSE) at SF State has increased, the gap in graduation rates between URM students and non-URM students has dropped, according to Darryl Dieter, the director of institutional research at SF State.
Recently, participants in San Francisco’s March for Science protested the current president and the budget cut in science research, according to Robin Lopez, the march organizer.
However, the voices that advocated for diversity in science were almost unnoticed, according to Maria Contreras, a biology major.
“I think people want to take a stand because (administration is) making budget cuts,” Contreras said. “But when do you see (these marchers) advocating for more representation of people of color?”
There has been an increase in graduation rates of Latino students in CoSE, who outnumbered white students in CoSE at SF State in Fall 2016, according to CSU data.
“I would actually expect the opposite, that more white people are enrolled in those classes,” said Sofia Kakaizada, a junior biology major.
While the graduation rates for URM students increase in number, the gap continues to exist and URM students in science still face struggles to compete with non-URM students in the classroom, according to Tremore Fucles, a psychology major who will be the first from his family to graduate college.
“There’s pressure for you to prove yourself to others,” Fucles said. “It’s a new territory so you are alone in it. So, it’s hard to go out there and find someone who you can talk to.”
Though the groups of students who are graduating from science departments are beginning to become more diverse, there is still a gap in representation of URM students and faculty members in CoSE, according to Dieter.
Latino and black students comprised of 31 percent of enrollment in SF State’s CoSE in Fall 2016, according to CSU data. Only nine percent of teaching faculty in the CoSE were Latino or black, according to Deiter.
Lee thinks that instructors from diverse backgrounds understand URM students and their needs. Lee’s URM professor suggested she join SF BUILD– Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity– to promote diversity in the scientific field of study and workforce at SF State and UCSF.
SF BUILD is a program funded by the National Institute of Health led by SF State in partnership with UCSF, according to its website.
Metro Academies College Success Program is another program provided by SF State that supports students’ first two years of college in different fields of study, including science, by providing tutoring and advising, according to its website.
“I remember my freshman year, I was very stuck and confused,” said Kakaizada, who has taken advantage of SF BUILD and metro program.
Rama Ali Kased, the director of the metro program, said the program has been successful and she plans to diversify the fields of study it includes as well as provide upper-division student support by updating important information through emails and phone advising.
Kased said that even though SF State helps fund those programs to support URM students in need, she does not think that SF State provides enough support in terms of providing career guidance.
“I would define student success in multiple ways,” Kased said. “It’s being able to graduate, it’s being able to get a good living-wage job that’s a healthy job and being a leader in the world and the community to make the world better place.”
Patricia Castruita, a biology major at SF State, said she feels responsible for serving the community and making a path for the next generation to follow.
“We have a higher responsibility to our community to fix those challenges that we’ve seen,” said Castruita. “I’m trying to be not only the first to graduate but also not the last one.”