The Opportunities for UnderRepresented Scholars (OURS) program is designed to increase the gender diversity in the academic ranks at both Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) through the acquisition of leadership skills that will render women more competitive for senior positions within these institutions.
According to 2009 statistics, HBCUs represent only 3% of US colleges and universities and yet they graduate 25% of African-Americans that acquire undergraduate degrees. With respect to Tribal Colleges, the data are even more compelling, given that Tribal Colleges represent less than 1% (in fact 0.82%) of all US institutions of higher education, and less than one-third of one percent of four-year institutions—yet, according to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), the enrollment of Native American students in Tribal Colleges is 7.8%. Thus, proportional to the number of institutions, there is almost ten times the number of Native American students in Tribal Colleges (7.8% divided by 0.82%). This is comparable to the same computation for African American students (25% divided by 3% = 8.3 times). Thus, it is a reasonable assumption that the role of the Tribal Colleges in the education of Native American students is statistically very comparable to the role of HBCUs in the education of African-American students.
By supporting women, especially women of color, in the STEM disciplines in realizing their leadership potential, OURS is expected to help ensure that students and faculty in the STEM disciplines will benefit from the skills, wisdom, breadth of experience and unique perspectives that women academic leaders will provide.
Using an action learning model, the program creatively integrates the professional education of women in STEM at both HBCUs and TCUs with authentic leadership experiences to help participants respond effectively to the pedagogical issues and academic leadership challenges of the 21st century. OURS is designed to equip women in the STEM disciplines at both HBCUs and TCUs with extensive knowledge of the psychology of leadership, to provide them with mentored opportunities to assume leadership roles, and to prepare them to overcome institutional barriers to advancement that women typically face in advancing to leadership positions.