Department of Chemistry earns regional MAGS recognition for DEI efforts

by Kimberly Hazen

The Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship Program (Bridge Program) and initiatives to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have earned the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Department of Chemistry the 2024 Award for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education from the Midwest Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS). The award recognizes and rewards specific excellence and innovation in graduate education, from admissions through degree completion. DEI initiatives within the Department of Chemistry and steering committee members Dr. Desiree Bates, Professor Bob Hamers, and Professor Sam Pazicni of the Department of Chemistry were nominated by William J. Karpus, Dean of the UW–Madison Graduate School

Recruiting, retention, and transition to degree initiatives were created by the steering committee with one goal in mind—to increase the diversity of students who complete a Ph.D. in chemical sciences. Before the implementation of the Bridge Program, the UW–Madison Department of Chemistry Ph.D. graduates numbered 149 with 6.7% coming from underrepresented minority groups. Just a few years later, the Bridge Program has more than doubled the percentage of graduates to 14.5% with 188 Ph.D. graduates.  

Chemistry Opportunities (CHOPs) is a unique program that recruits prospective students from a variety of backgrounds to explore the Ph.D. program at no expense with funding from Dow Chemical Corporation and Procter & Gamble. PPG Industries-funded Catalyst is a peer mentorship program aimed at supporting incoming students in their transition to graduate studies. The Bridge Program  is a 22-month Research Master of Science degree program that is specifically designed to provide students with a range of experiences and mentorship. The program is funded by the generosity of PPG Industries, Procter & Gamble, the UW–Madison Graduate School, and the UW–Madison College of Letters and Science

Dr. Desiree Bates believes this award is co-owned by the students in the program, “The success of these programs lie with our hardworking students. They are the ones who deserve this credit.“

“I feel like the implementation of the Bridge Program led to many positive changes,” states Professor Sam Pazicni. “We have seen our whole department  became more inclusive due to the changing population of the graduate program.” 

Bridge Program Fellow Shannon Brown

Bridge Program Fellow Shannon Brown would agree with the positive changes including a positive impact on her academic path. “Initially, attending graduate school was not on my radar” Brown explained. “Having made the difficult decision to immigrate to the United States of America coupled with my family’s nonexistent monetary abundance, my primary goals were to achieve a bachelor’s degree with as little debt as possible and join the workforce[…]the Bridge Program created the opportunity for me to examine if graduate school—a space I would otherwise have been unlikely to exist in—was the right place for me.”

The Department of Chemistry team will be recognized and presented with the award at the 2024 MAGS annual meeting on April 3-5, 2024 in St. Louis, Missouri.  

Dr. Desiree Bates
Professor Bob Hamers
Professor Sam Pazicni