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**Exploring Diversity in Higher Education Beyond Affirmative Action**

Given the ruling by the Supreme Court, there is a pressing need to enhance diversity within a race-neutral framework for admissions. Innovative strategies must be developed to address this challenge.

Before delving into new approaches, it is essential to evaluate the effectiveness of past efforts in promoting diversity through affirmative action, which, while making some progress, has not adequately increased the representation of African Americans and Hispanics among doctoral degree recipients. Despite affirmative action, these groups still constitute a smaller proportion of doctoral degree holders compared to their share of the U.S. population within the age range of Ph.D. candidates.

The underrepresentation of people of color in earning doctoral degrees poses a significant obstacle to fostering diversity among faculty members. Given that many minority students prefer institutions with faculty members who share similar backgrounds, the lack of diverse faculty could deter talented minority students from enrolling, perpetuating a homogenous environment across college campuses.

Richard Cherwitz is founding director of the University of Texas’ Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium. (courtesy, Richard Cherwitz)Richard Cherwitz, the founding director of the University of Texas’ Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium, sheds light on these challenges.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision, the task of diversifying higher education becomes even more challenging. The key to producing a more diverse pool of doctoral degree holders lies in the admissions process. However, a critical but often overlooked issue is the insufficient number of minority applicants.

At the University of Texas at Austin (UT), for instance, the statistics for graduate applicants for the summer and fall of 2022 reveal a concerning trend: Hispanic applicants accounted for only 7.82% of the total, while Black or African American applicants constituted a mere 2.57%.

Why do many talented minority students opt out of pursuing graduate education?

For some, the allure of fields like law, medicine, or business, driven by financial rewards and societal prestige, overshadow the consideration of graduate studies. Additionally, minority students, especially first-generation college attendees, may feel a strong sense of social responsibility, as articulated by Washington Post columnist William Raspberry, who highlighted their inclination to address real-world issues rather than pursue academic endeavors.

Ironically, graduate education can align with social relevance. The Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) program at UT, operating from 1997 to 2019, exemplified this by encouraging students to become citizen-scholars. By involving students in community projects that applied their knowledge and required them to communicate effectively with diverse audiences, IE showcased the societal value of graduate education.

The link between IE and diversity enhancement becomes evident through its impact on underrepresented minorities. Despite constituting only 9% of UT’s total graduate student population, underrepresented minorities accounted for 20% of IE participants. These students found IE instrumental in demystifying the graduate school experience and providing a platform to contribute their intellectual abilities to the community.

A notable aspect of IE’s success was its pre-graduate school internship, which matched undergraduates with mentors for research projects and exposure to graduate-level activities. Over 65% of these interns were from underrepresented minority or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, with many subsequently pursuing graduate studies. The program empowered students to view education as a means to achieve their aspirations, leading to a significant increase in minority representation within IE compared to the university’s overall demographics.

The lesson learned is clear: To enhance diversity in a post-affirmative action landscape, it is imperative to broaden the applicant pool through innovative methods that connect students’ career goals with education, a core principle of IE’s educational philosophy spanning more than two decades.

In conclusion, despite the elimination of affirmative action, there is optimism for advancing diversity in higher education, as highlighted by Richard Cherwitz, the Ernest A. Sharpe Centennial Professor Emeritus at the Moody College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin, and the visionary behind the university’s Intellectual Entrepreneurship initiative.