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NIMH Awards $2.7 Million to Continue Minority Fellowship Program

by Edward Murguia, Outgoing Director, and Alfonso Latoni, Incoming Director, ASA Minority Affairs Program

The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded the American Sociologial Association’s Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) $2.7 million over the next five years. The proposal received a high priority score and was funded at the maximum level possible under this grant competition in the Underrepresented Minority Fellowship Programs.

The newly approved funding which began on August 1,2000 continues through July 31, 2005. The Minority Fellowship Program, which began in 1974, has been successful in supporting graduate students of color in pre-doctoral training in the field of mental health. Additionally, some MFP Fellows, assisted with funds contributed by ASA members and sociological societies, have had no specification as to field of study.

The success of the MFP over its 26 years of existence has been striking. Between 1974, the Program has supported 394 students of color. Of this number, 48.7% have been African American, 27.4% Latino, 17.5% Asian American and 6.4% have been Native American. The success rate (number of PhD divided by number of students funded) of cohorts 1-15 (cohorts with sufficient time in graduate school to complete their PhDs) is 65.4%. Of all minority PhDs in the discipline of sociology, 17.8% have been funded by the MFP. This number is even larger for some ethnic/racial groups. Among all African American PhDs, 22.1% have been MFP Fellows, and 40% of all Native American PhDs have been MFP Fellows. Just reading the names of past and present Fellows listed in the Annual Meeting Program and seeing the significance of these scholars’ work throughout the program serves as an indicator of the impact of MFP.

Current Activities

Currently, the Program has been active in providing a variety of enrichment activities for its Fellows. Through its Summer Research Initiative, for example, the Program has provided summer internships linking MFP Fellows with professors doing research in mental health at research centers other than at the Fellows’ home institutions. Also through the Initiative, Fellows have attended research training programs during the summer such as the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and the Public Health Research Institute on Minority Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

At ASA’s Annual Meeting, the MFP has provided both professional development training by means of sessions on the sociology of mental health, as well as the opportunity for Fellows to present their own research at the Meeting. Additionally, at the MFP’s yearly Proposal Development Workshop, the Fellows have met both with NIMH Program Officers and with researchers in mental health, obtaining information on acquiring funding for their dissertation proposals as well as for their future research more generally.

New Initiatives

With this new funding, the Program will undertake several new initiatives:

  • A First Year Cohort Conference will bring the new cohort of Fellows together to create a sense of cohesion and mutual support, to provide information which will assist in their navigating through their graduate programs, and to lay an initial foundation of knowledge in the sociology of mental health.

  • An Interdisciplinary Training Workshop in Mental Health Research will be held jointly by the ASA and the American Psychological Association (APA) to foster connections between the work being undertaken by the next generations of minority scientists in these two fields. Conferences will be organized around substantive topics, methodological questions, measurement issues, and ethical concerns.

  • A Mentoring Conference will be held for the mentors of Fellows from the Fellows’ graduate department to address specific issues in training and mentoring, address opportunities in the sociology of mental health, and strengthen the ties between the MFP Program and the Fellows’ placement sites.

  • A Workshop on Research Training in Sociology of Mental Health/Health will convene program directors and department chairs from programs in the sociology of mental health to share best practices, to develop program models, and to identify new strategies.
ASA’s Minority Fellowship program has been a major success story for the discipline and has made a significant impact on diversifying sociology over the past quarter century. With the continuing support of NIMH, the Program intends to become even stronger and more intentional in its training of minority scholars who add much to our discipline.