NextGen Psych Scholars: A Roadmap to a Diverse Academic Future

Reference: DeJoseph, M. L., & Carosella, K. A. (2023). Diversifying the academy through a peer-to-peer mentorship model: Insights and recommendations from the NextGen Psych Scholars Program (NPSP). Journal of Diversity in Higher Education.

Summarized By Ellen Parry Luff

About the Study:

Although Ph.D. programs have made some progress in increasing diversity in recent years, they still face challenges in recruiting and retaining a truly diverse cohort of scholars. This paper discusses the importance of strengthening equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) efforts across the academic training pipeline and highlights the value of student-led initiatives in diversifying academia. The authors discuss the NextGen Psych Scholars Program (NPSP), a virtual graduate student-led mentorship program founded at the University of Minnesota, designed to support underrepresented undergraduates and post-baccalaureates interested in psychology Ph.D. programs. Using this example the authors argue for the need to adopt long-term, sustainable, and scalable peer-to-peer mentorship programs to better support underrepresented scholars through the academic application process. The article explores the success of NPSP and offers recommendations for implementing similar programs to diversify academia.

Program Recommendations: 

  • Invest in Trainee-Led Programs: Current Ph.D. students, especially ones from underrepresented backgrounds play a vital role in recruiting, retaining, and mentoring incoming diverse trainees and those working in research labs. To support and recognize this work Ph.D. programs should create internal funding to compensate mentors, offer in-person end-of-year celebrations, provide honorariums for underrepresented, early career researchers to serve as speakers in panels, etc.
  • Foster Inclusivity and Leadership: The authors recommend advisory boards with diverse representation that will influence values and programming. Additionally, there should be many opportunities for training throughout the program to reinforce program goals and provide professional development for graduate students. Finally, they suggest the use of informal community events to foster leadership and connection.
  • Partner with Other Initiatives: Collaborating with existing EDI-related programs, academic societies, and institutions to create a network of support for underrepresented scholars. Building partnerships can help enhance the resources and opportunities available to prospective and current trainees.
  • Overall, Sustain Funding: As an overall point, the authors note how important it is that once a student-led initiative demonstrates success, Ph.D. programs and institutions should work to try and provide yearly funding to ensure sustainability. This support can help pay mentors, cover program expenses, and enhance the impact of such programs.

Implications for Mentoring:

This article underscores the vital role of underrepresented Ph.D. students in supporting underrepresented post-baccalaureate, and undergraduate students. The recommendations presented emphasize the importance of recognizing and encouraging the unique perspectives of underrepresented Ph.D. trainees in mentoring diverse prospective students. Importantly, this paper calls for advocacy from authoritative figures within academia to foster and sustain trainee-led initiatives, like NPSP. While a supportive peer community during the transition to Ph.D. programs is crucial, the broader impact relies on coordinated efforts across educational levels and institutions, ensuring that young scholars have the resources and support they need as they progress through their training as these are often time-consuming commitments. Thus this paper seeks not only to highlight and build upon the under-acknowledged work that underrepresented Ph.D. students do but also to advocate for institutions to provide compensation and support for this work in order to help programs like NPSP thrive.

To access the article, click here.