Representation Matters: The Trickle-Down Effect of Faculty Diversity on Ph.D. Student Recruitment and Selection



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Pipeline issues, i.e., declining proportions of students of color reaching each sequential stage of education, are often blamed for the continued underrepresentation of faculty of color within higher education (Smith et al., 2004; Smith et al., 2015; Stewart & Valian, 2018; Turner et al., 1999). More research is needed to understand what causes the pipeline problem so we can move toward addressing it. One unexamined factor that might be contributing to the leaky pipeline is the diversity (or lack thereof) at the faculty level that leads to disproportionately low application and acceptance rates for students of color. Therefore, with the overarching aim of understanding how and why faculty diversity in a graduate program can impact Ph.D. student diversity, I present a two-part study that extends the research in this area by pursuing three main goals. One, I utilize five years of Ph.D. application data to demonstrate that the presence of URM faculty in a Ph.D. program increases the likelihood of URM students’ selection into the program. Two, I found that URM applicants to Ph.D. programs prefer to work with URM faculty, which translates to more diverse graduate programs attracting more diverse student applicant pools. Third and last, I utilize a survey-based study to examine the theoretical concept of protégé choice homophily, which posits that students prefer to work with homophilous faculty due to perceptions of shared structural barriers and an underlying desire to seek help to overcome them. In doing so, I build the case for diversifying higher education faculty and discuss the theoretical and practical implications of the present research findings.



Diversity, Recruitment, Selection, Leaky Pipeline, Pipeline Issues, Minority, Representation, Homophily