Recruitment of minority students to U.S. epidemiology degree programs

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PURPOSE: African-, Hispanic-, and Native Americans are underrepresented in the field of epidemiology including degree programs. As part of the assessment component of its mandate, the American College of Epidemiology Committee on Minority Affairs conducted a survey of minority recruitment activities of U.S. epidemiology degree programs. METHODS: The survey, containing questions related to marketing activities, institutional infrastructure, financial support, academic offerings, and receptive/supportive environment, was mailed to all programs identified in Episource as offering epidemiology degrees. Separate responses were requested concerning activities at the department and school levels. RESULTS: Fifty- two completed questionnaires were received (response rate of 79%). All but two institutions had at least one activity conducted by either the department or the school. However, all activities were more common at the school- than at the department-level. Indeed, some activities [a written minority student recruitment plan (6% of departments and 52% of schools), personnel with minority recruitment responsibilities (4% of departments and 73% of schools] were almost exclusively school-sponsored. Although marketing-type activities were the most common minority recruitment tool used by departments, only 21% made visits to minority schools, 17% visited other colleges specifically to recruit minorities, and 12% produced materials targeted to ethnic/racial minorities. Six percent of the departments and 19% of the schools offered financial support (grants, fellowships, scholarships) to almost all underrepresented minority students. CONCLUSIONS: Even though individual epidemiology degree programs may not see a need for general recruitment activities in order to maintain the size of their applicant pool, minority- specific recruitment activities should be undertaken to enhance and diversify that pool. We recommend that epidemiology departments develop, adopt, and implement comprehensive written plans for the recruitment of underrepresented minority students into their programs.

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