Charting the Course of Inclusivity: The PROMISE Programs' Historical Journey

The journey of the PROMISE Academy Alliance is one of unwavering dedication to diversity, inclusivity, and meaningful change within the STEM fields. From its roots, PROMISE was more than a program; it was a catalyst for transformation, challenging the status quo and opening doors for underrepresented groups in academia


PROMISE Origin's

The word PROMISE has a Rich History. 


AGEP PROMISE Academy Alliance (2018-2023)

The AGEP PROMISE Academy Alliance State System Model to Transform the Hiring Practices and Career Success of Tenure Track Historically Underrepresented Minority Faculty in Biomedical Sciences, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF)

The University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents, Chancellor, and Office of the Sr. Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs worked with the Co-PIs, PROMISE Director, and the provosts of the institutions to develop a collaborative network that will leverage the USM’s “system-ness” to collectively develop, support, and share recruitment initiatives that will attract and retain diverse STEM faculty. In 2017, the USM provosts and the USM Board of Regents Committees on Education, Policy and Student Life (EPSL), and Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) have had regular meeting agenda items on faculty diversity, which has made discussing the topic increasingly more comfortable and engaging. Discussions  centered around research such as how varying views of diversity can affect underrepresented scholar’s engagement and participation in STEM faculty opportunities (Aragón, Dovidio, & Graham, 2017), research and teaching motivations for faculty in STEM (Carter-Johnson, Byars-Winston, Tull, Zayas, & Padin, 2016; Gasman, 2016; Lechuga, 2012), recommendations for leveraging resources and improving URM faculty preparation (Li & Koedel, 2017; MacLachlan, 2006; Whittaker & Montgomery, 2014) and attention to faculty retention (Han & Leonard, 2016; Hardy & Thompson, 2017; Lawrence, Celis, Kim, Lipson, & Tong, 2014; Layton, Brandt, Freeman, Harrell, Hall & Sinche, 2016).


The PROMISE AGEP (2002 – 2018)

PROMISE is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and was established in late 2002. In 2003, PROMISE launched its suite of programs to support underrepresented graduate students in STEM at UMBC (lead institution), and founding partners UMCP, and UMB. Success with early recruitment of underrepresented students in STEM led to the development of the next phase of the PROMISE AGEP program in 2008 that focused on retention, and PROMISE Pathways in 2011, which explored expanding programming beyond the three initial institutions.

An expanded program, the  PROMISE AGEP: Maryland Transformation (AGEP-T), began in Fall 2013, building upon earlier versions of the PROMISE AGEP programs. The PROMISE AGEP-T expanded programs to all 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland and included initiatives to support the professional development of postdoctoral scholars. Information about the AGEP-T program can be found in our post: https://promiseagep.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/new-nsf-promise-agep-grant-funded-until-2017-includes-university-system-of-maryland-ccbc-aacc-and-agmus/.

Former PROMISE funding includes: 

  1. 2013: Collaborative Research: AGEP – T: PROMISE AGEP Maryland Transformation ($1.75M)
  2. 2011: PROMISE Pathways ($150K)
  3. 2008: PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP ($1.5M)
  4. 2002: Maryland Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate ($3.15M)

Signature PROGRAMS of the PROMISE AGEP that have been replicated and scaled by other institutions include the Dissertation House (paper in CBE Life Sciences Education) and the Summer Success Institute (SSI), that has a book available on Amazon to assist other schools with developing agendas for their professional development programs.

While the name “PROMISE” has been attached to training diverse graduate students and postdocs, Maryland took the “and the Professoriate” portion of the AGEP name seriously and began to brand “PROMISE” as an initiative that could assist schools with their faculty diversity efforts.

It can take years to develop both institution-wide and system-wide approaches that facilitate faculty diversity, that are embraced by both the administration and the current faculty. The PROMISE AGEP provided participants with information about faculty careers, and motivation to pursue the professoriate that they hadn’t received otherwise. PROMISE now has among its alumni scholars who are or have been tenured professors, on tenure-track, and researchers at Clemson, Augustana College, UCLA, Catholic University, the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras, Norfolk State University, CUNY, MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, and several other institutions. PROMISE AGEP models are used at the University of Pittsburgh, Cornell University, MD Anderson – University of Texas, Purdue University, Old Dominion University, and Virginia Tech. PROMISE has a proven track record of training URM scholars in STEM and transitioning grad students and postdocs to faculty positions at a variety of institutions both within and outside of the US. The USM’s leadership is now committed and ready to adopt these effective practices to increase faculty diversity within Maryland.

Preparation for this PROMISE Academy proposal began in 2016, providing the University System of Maryland with a platform on which to position and build out the system’s faculty diversity efforts. The name for “The PROMISE Academy” was chosen for this AGEP to purposely connect it to the PROMISE AGEP-T’s success with facilitating a diverse STEM workforce.

The word “PROMISE” among USM Regents, Presidents, Provosts, and Deans, evokes thoughts of inclusive excellence that extend from degree completion among diverse graduate students, to developing community for postdocs, to the proposed initiatives that are being designed to increase the numbers of URM STEM tenure-track faculty.

Quotes from USM Leaders: 

“As I mentioned during the NSF Site Visit for the PROMISE AGEP in May 2016, developing system-wide efforts takes time, and the University System of Maryland has now reached the point where PROMISE is regularly on system-wide agendas where the AGEP’s best practices are shared with policy-makers. In 2016, our system began to focus increased attention on improving faculty diversity, and PROMISE was poised and ready to move into a position to providing advice and counsel to the system. PROMISE shared outcomes from key programs such as the Dissertation House and the Summer Success Institute, which are replicated in other states for sharing potential solutions. As a result, there was enthusiastic support to develop The PROMISE Academy to stimulate faculty diversity.” – Joann A. Boughman, Ph.D., Sr. Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, USM

“We’re examining our data within the USM, and acknowledge that we need The PROMISE Academy to assist the system with developing our pipeline for future faculty, recruiting diverse faculty, and sharing data, advice, and initiatives for retaining our diverse scholars through and beyond tenure. – Robert L. Caret, Ph.D., Chancellor, University System of Maryland.


Funding Disclaimer

The RISE UPP PROMISE Academy is funded by the NSF’s Eddie Bernice Johnson INCLUDES Initiative: Re-Imagining STEM Equity Utilizing Postdoctoral Pathways (RISE UPP), Division of Equity and Excellence in STEM (EES), NSF Award # 2217329 and the following Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) NSF awards: #1820984 (UMBC), #1820974 (Towson), #1820971 (Salisbury), #1820983 (UM Baltimore – UMB), #1820975 (UM College Park). Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented on our social media platforms are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. For official information about NSF, visit https://www.nsf.gov.

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