Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 58.92
Liaison Caitlin Steele
Submission Date June 8, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

San Francisco State University
IN-23: Serving Underrepresented Groups

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 0.50 / 0.50 Nick Kordesch
Sustainability Coordinator
Office of Sustainability
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Is the institution formally designated as a minority-serving institution, historically disadvantaged institution, indigenous institution, or the equivalent?:

A brief description of the institution’s formal designation:

SF State is designated by the U.S. Department of Education as an Asian American, Native American and Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI). http://www.sfsu.edu/news/prsrelea/fy12/035.html

SFSU attracts an exceptionally diverse student population. SFSU is one of the nation’s most ethnically and culturally diverse campuses (Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 2013). Of those declaring their ethnicity in Fall 2014, students of color comprised 68.2% of the undergraduates and 42.7% of the graduate students. The combined undergraduate and graduate student population is: 5.4% African American; 0.3% Native American; 27.3% Hispanic; 32.3% Asian/Pacific Islander; 28.3% White; and 6.5% “two or more races.” In total, 16,014 of the enrolled students are ethnic minorities, and 10,235 of these are from the four federally-designated underrepresented ethnic minority (URM) groups. About 57% of SFSU students are female. The average age is 23 years among undergraduates and 32 years among master’s students. 9% of the undergraduates are first generation college students from families in which neither parent has attended college. Approximately 2.8% of the students receive services from the Disability Programs and Resource Center for communicative, learning, mobility, or visual disabilities, deafness, or other functional limitations.

Large numbers of students from underrepresented groups earn their degrees at SFSU. The campus recently ranked 13th out of 3,600 institutions surveyed nationally in the number of baccalaureate degrees and 80th in the number of masters’ degrees awarded to students of color (Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 2014). Over the last five academic years (2007-Spring 2014), a total of 8,968 baccalaureate and 1,492 master’s degrees were awarded to URM students. Approximately 2.8% of the total degrees granted over the last five academic years were degrees granted to individuals with communicative, learning, mobility, or visual disability, deafness, or other functional limitations, consistent with the representation of these individuals in the general student population.

The diversity of students extends across the disciplines. In 2014, Diverse Issues in Higher Education rated SFSU as a top producer of minority baccalaureates nationally in 22 disciplinary areas. These areas, by national ranking, include: Communication/Journalism (#4); Business Administration/Management (#6); Visual and Performing Arts (#6); Parks, Recreation, Leisure and Fitness Studies (#7); History (#8); Area, Ethnic, Cultural and Gender Studies (#10); Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services (#10); Hospitality Administration/Management (#10); Philosophy and Religious Studies (#13); English Language and Literature/Letters (#14); Homeland Security, Law, Enforcement, Firefighting, and Related Protective Services (#17); Education (#20); Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics (#21); Social Sciences (#22); Communication Disorders Sciences and Services (#23); Mathematics and Statistics (#23); Health Professions and Related Programs (#28); Family and Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences (#29); Biological and Biomedical Sciences (#31); Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities (#33); Psychology (#34); Natural Resources and Conservation (#39). Similarly, SFSU received top national rankings for master’s degrees awarded to ethnic minority students in: Foreign Languages, Literature, and Linguistics (#1); Area, Ethnic, Cultural, Gender and Group Studies (#5); English (#6); History (#9); Biological and Biomedical Sciences (#23); Physical Sciences (#23); Communication Disorders Sciences and Services (#25); Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies (#29); Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities (#46); Social Sciences (#47); Mathematics and Statistics (#49).

The SFSU faculty is also exceptionally diverse. Of the 766 tenured/tenure-track faculty in Fall 2014, 49% were women and 34%, ethnic minorities (21% Asian/Pacific Islander; 7% Mexican American; 5% African American; and 1% Native American). The representation of women on the SFSU faculty increased from 38% to 48%, and the representation of faculty of color from 24% to 34%, during the period 1995 to 2011.

SFSU has an increasingly active research climate. Over the three years, total R&D expenditures have averaged $31.2 million per year. The three largest sources of research funding on campus are the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the US Department of Education (USED). State and local agencies including the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and private foundations including the Spencer, Dreyfuss, Beckman and Genentech Foundations and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) are also prominent in the funding mix.

The momentum behind this emergent research culture can be attributed in part to a succession of major institutional awards from NIH to support faculty research training and infrastructure development on campus. These awards began with the University’s first Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) Support for Continuous Research Excellence (SCORE) program in 1995, followed by multiple Research Infrastructure for Minority Institutions (RIMI) and Minority Research Infrastructure Support Program (M-RISP) awards from the National Institute for General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). These investments, in turn, led to several large grants from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for SFSU to develop research collaborations with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), to investigate cancer disparities in underrepresented communities. Recently, National Institutes of Health awarded a BUILD (Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity) to overcome the limitations of ongoing underrepresentation of some groups in the sciences which limits the effectiveness of our nation’s biomedical research workforce and constrains innovation and productivity in the scientific workforce. The mission of SF BUILD is to enhance diversity of the biomedical research workforce by transforming the teaching and research environments in science and math at SF State.

A recent Department of Education grant was awarded to faculty in the department of Special Education and Communicative Disorders to explore whether an emerging curriculum designed to prepare students with intellectual disabilities and autism for beginning reading programs in special education classrooms may also be effective in general education classrooms. In addition, SFSU was awarded a major grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to transform undergraduate instruction in the life sciences by developing and piloting an evidence-based approach to curricular innovation supporting the processes through which students learn to become scientists.

NSF has made an unprecedented investment in the campus research infrastructure, awarding SFSU investigators a total of 15 major research instrumentation (MRI) and 11 CAREER grants. In 2007 and again in 2010, three SFSU investigators received new CAREER awards in a single funding cycle, an extraordinary show of support from NSF’s most prestigious program of awards for junior faculty. One of these investigators went on in 2012 to become the first SFSU faculty member ever to receive a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the US government on early career researchers.

While the vast majority of NSF support has been awarded to investigators in the College of Science and Engineering, two large campus-wide institutes and centers have attracted major federal funding for behavioral and social science research. The campus-wide Health Equity Institute (HEI) opened its doors in 2005 as a center for community-engaged research and education aimed at reducing and ultimately eliminating health disparities. The Center for Education on Gender and Sexuality (CREGS) resulted from the merger in 2010 of several smaller interdisciplinary programs of the College of Health and Social Sciences. Faculty affiliated with HEI and CREGS have attracted an impressive array of research grants from the National Institutes of Health (including R01, R03, R15, R21, and K awards) as well as other major awards from the Ford Foundation, AIDS United, and other national and regional foundations.

Research and teaching are integrally related at SF State. The continuing emphasis on research and scholarly activity at SFSU can be understood, in part, as a natural extension of the university’s historic dedication to excellence in teaching. Research activities inform and enrich classroom and laboratory instruction as well as feed the university’s capacity for service through projects that move out into the community to address issues of pressing concern including health, education, and the environment. SFSU students—undergraduate and graduate alike—are regularly afforded opportunities for hands-on experiences in the laboratory and in the field that inspire discovery and ignite a passion for learning. On our campus, research is not considered a separate enterprise but rather an integral part of the education offered.

Students benefit from SFSU’s exemplary research training programs. Faculty investigators make it a priority to engage students fully in the research process and have been highly successful in obtaining funding to ensure that all students—including those from backgrounds underrepresented in the sciences—receive high quality research training. Programs for this purpose include the NIH-funded Bridges to the Baccalaureate; Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE); Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC); Bridges to the Future; and Career Opportunities in Research (COR) programs. All of these include intensive mentored research experiences and professional development activities to help students develop the skills they need to succeed in competitive doctoral programs. Other externally-funded opportunities for student research training on campus include the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Bridges to Stem Cell Research, and the Beckman and Genentech Scholars programs.

Increasing numbers of underrepresented students from SFSU graduates go on to earn doctoral degrees in the biological sciences. A total of at least 210 URM students from SFSU have been admitted into highly competitive Ph.D. programs in biomedical research since 1993. While only 8 URM students received Ph.D.s prior to 2005, 121 earned Ph.D.s from 2005-2014, and another 88 are on track to complete their Ph.D. programs by 2020.While these numbers may seem small in absolute terms, they take on considerable significance in light of the national underrepresentation of minorities in the sciences. For example, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics reports that only 33, 267, and 329 Ph.D. degrees in the biological sciences were awarded to Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans, respectively, in the entire United States in 2012 (National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 2015. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2015. Special Report NSF 15-311. Arlington, VA).

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