The undergraduate student body in the U.S. continues to grow increasingly diverse. In 2013, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported that 56% of undergraduate students in the U.S. were White, 16.5% Hispanic, 14.3% Black, 5.7% Asian. Between 1990 to 2013, Black student enrollment more than doubled and Hispanic student undergraduate enrollment increased by roughly 400%. These encouraging statistics are on par with the enrollment trends in the undergraduate psychology major at the University of Maryland, which very closely matches the national trend. However, despite the fact that diverse students are choosing psychology as an undergraduate major, a striking trend of underrepresentation of diverse students continues to exist at the level of graduate studies in psychology. This disparity is evidenced by the National Science Foundation’s 2014 report which stated that Black and Latina/o students represented only 5.8% and 7.9% of doctoral degree recipients in psychology, respectively.
The continued lack of racial and cultural diversity among doctoral-level psychologists poses a potentially serious threat to the field of psychology. Doctoral degrees afford access to academic positions, the ability to produce knowledge through research, and entry to leadership positions that influence and shape the field. As the American population quickly continues to become increasingly diverse, the racial and cultural homogeneity among psychologists limits the field’s ability to evolve in the ways necessary to competently serve the needs of the majority of Americans. Moreover, many individuals who need psychological services may not have access to interventions from psychologists who serve their communities well (Bersoff, 2013).
To improve preparation for doctoral education in psychology among underrepresented minority undergraduate students, Dr. Naz Salahuddin and the Office of Undergraduate Studies will launch the Psychology Research Empowerment Program (P.R.E.P.) in January 2017. The PREP program is a four-year program jointly funded by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Moving Maryland Forward grant, the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and the Department of Psychology. PREP will welcome 20 underrepresented racial minority undergraduate psychology majors in Spring 2017. PREP students will participate in a comprehensive four-year program which will begin with research participation in the first year, and culminate with assistance with graduate school applications during senior year. Additionally, students will receive intensive academic advising, faculty mentoring, vocational programming, and career development support throughout their time as undergraduate psychology majors. To learn more about the PREP program, please contact the Department of Psychology at psycadvising [at] umd.edu or at (301) 405-5866.