Cal-Bridge Program

Cal-Bridge PhD California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
State
California
Academic Level
Graduate
Issue Area
Access
Key Personnel
Program Focus
Mentoring,
Scholarship

Overview

The Cal-Bridge Program has the mission of creating opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups to increase their numbers in PhD programs in physics and astronomy. While underrepresented minority students constitute more than 30% of the U.S. population, they shockingly account for less than 4% of physics and astronomy PhDs awarded in the U.S. and only 3% of faculty members. Thus, students from these underrepresented groups interested in pursuing a degree in these fields do not see themselves represented in the faculty who teach them. 

The Cal-Bridge program addresses this shortage of underrepresented minority students receiving PhDs via a California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) partnership. Latinos comprise approximately 40% of the enrollment in the CSU system and make-up 60% of Cal-Bridge scholars.

Program Description

Founded in 2014, the Cal-Bridge program is a partnership between the 9 UC and 16 CSU campuses, with over 160 physics and astronomy faculty members. Cal-Bridge scholars are recruited with the help of local faculty and/or staff liaisons at each campus. Community college students have the opportunity to transfer to a participating CSU to join the program. 

Once selected, Cal-Bridge Scholars benefit from four main pillars of support:

  1. Financial support. Scholars receive up to $10,000/year in financial aid based on demonstrated need. In exchange for receiving this aid, scholars agree to decrease their work hours to less than 10 hours/week. Excessive work hours has been identified as a barrier for CSU students to maintain the GPA needed to get into a PhD program.
  2. Intensive, joint mentoring by CSU and UC faculty. Scholars meet with their two mentors at least twice a month during the last two years of college.
  3. Professional development workshops designed to help scholars prepare to apply to graduate school.
  4. Access to a wide variety of summer research opportunities, including at the participating UC campuses.

Outcome

  • Increase in Latinos pursuing careers in physics and astronomy: The 2018-2019 cohort serves 25 scholars from 10 different California State University campuses. Since its inception, the program has served 59 students, of which 58% are Latino.
  • Increase in Latinos attending top physics and astronomy PhD programs: In the past five years, 88% (54 of 61) of scholars are or will be attending a Ph.D. (38), MS (15), or the APS Bridge program (1).