Stephanie Zeigler’s parents convinced her that a career in biology might be more lucrative than pursuing her interest in music.
But once she arrived to study at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., Zeigler found that none of her science professors looked like her.
Now the Saks High School graduate is working to join the slim ranks of black college professors in the South.
She’s completed her doctoral studies in microbiology at Auburn University and soon will defend her thesis. She did it with help from the Southern Regional Education Board’s Doctoral Scholars Program.
Begun in 1993, the program aims to increase the number of minority college professors.
“I was listening to a professor discuss how he had been in Chicago, and high school students told him that getting good grades was acting white,” Zeigler said. “I thought that was horrible. Some people believe blacks are not capable of achieving, and that’s just not true. But if you don’t have the role models, you might get lost.”
A conference sponsored by the Doctoral Scholars Program wraps up this weekend in Washington, D.C. More than 1,000 attendants gathered to hear tips and strategies for surviving graduate school and then becoming college faculty.
“If once they’re on the job they’re successful and get tenure, that’s what we ultimately want them to do,” said Ansley Abraham, director of SREB’s program.
Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that about 33 percent of college students across the country are racial or ethnic minorities, but minority professors make up just 15 percent of all college faculty.
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