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 & astronomy. While underrepresented minority (URM) students constitute more than 30% of the US population, they shockingly account for less than 4% of physics & astronomy PhDs awarded in the US 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 URM students receiving PhDs via a California State University (CSU)-University of California partnership. Latinos comprise ~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 9 University of California and 16 California State University campuses, with over 160 physics & astronomy faculty from the two systems participating. Scholars are recruited from the 16 CSUs with the help of local faculty and/or staff liaisons at each campus. Community college students can 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 cut back their work hours to less than 10 hours/week. Excessive work hours is a well-known barrier to CSU students maintaining 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 current 5th cohort serves 25 scholars from 10 different California State University campuses. Since inception, the program has served 59 students of which 58% are Latino.
  • Increase in Latinos attending top physics and astronomy PhD programs: In the first three years of the program, 95% (19 of 20) students began or will be attending top PhD programs in physics or astronomy. Of these, 58% (11 of 19) are Latino students, including 4 Latinas.
  • In the most recent cohort (cohort 4), 10 out of 12 scholars have been admitted into PhD programs.