Two DSP grads prepare a generation of potential Ph.D. Scholars


In January 2016, the Doctoral Scholars Program staff re-established the DSP Service Grant. The $2,000 grant, supported by donations from program graduates and constituents, funds two service projects that are submitted by program graduates and helps graduates expand the educational experiences of the next generation of K-12 and undergraduate students. 

Dr. Jamie Fisher

2013 DSP Program Graduate
Vanderbilt University
Speech Language Pathology

Jamie Fisher

Project: The Alumni Give Back – A Community Service Project

ACT Scholarship Award Contest
Fisher Service Grant Project Photo

Dr. Jamie Fisher provided information on careers in business, law, health and STEM with fellow alumni of her alma mater, Central High School Magnet School (CHS) in Nashville, Tennessee, to students going through the college application process. The team of alumni also gave feedback on students’ college letters of intent and conducted an ACT college essay scholarship contest that allowed 27 students to take the ACT exam for free. Fisher partnered with CHS staff and teachers to bring these resources to the students. After the project, Fisher received the following feedback from teachers and staff:

  • 86 percent of teachers and staff felt the Alumni Give-Back Service Project was “very good” or “excellent” in assisting students with learning about different career paths.
  • 72 percent of teachers and staff felt the Alumni Give-Back Service Project was “very good” or “excellent” in providing students with new ideas and strategies for career and educational development.
  • 72 percent of teachers and staff would rate their satisfaction with the project as “very good” or “excellent.”

Fisher facilitated a career day for the students and introduced them to mentorship and collaboration. The goal is for these students to understand the benefit in considering postsecondary education opportunities. Through teaching and mentorship, she hopes these students will eventually consider pursuing the Ph.D.  


Dr. Shawanda Thomas

2007 DSP Program Graduate
University of Alabama

Shawanda Thomas

Project: Girls IMPACT (Increasing Mathematical Potential Among College-Bound Teens)


Dr. Shawanda Thomas developed the Girls IMPACT program in 2016. Girls IMPACT took place over six weeks during the summer and exposed minority girls ages 12 to 16 to STEM careers. The program helps build girls’ confidence in mathematics through presentations given by women in STEM and through interactive and cooperative learning activities. The 25 participants were from Birmingham, Alabama. The sessions included interactions with the women professionals, team-building exercises, and college-readiness and mathematics activities.

Each guest speaker was an expert in either physics, industrial engineering, physiology, chemical engineering, statistics and optometry. They all facilitated a flipped classroom approach, in which the students took the lead by engaging in projects that further expanded their knowledge about STEM.

Thomas had each participant take a post-survey to see how much the girls had taken away from the experience.

  • 100 percent of participants felt they could confidently answer the question, “What do engineers do?” compared with 37 percent before completing the program.
  • 95 percent of participants felt they could confidently answer the question, “What do mathematicians do?” compared with 58 percent before the program.
  • 100 percent of participants felt the program increased their knowledge about STEM careers.
  • 90 percent felt the program increased their confidence in doing mathematics.
  • 100 percent felt the program increased their interest in pursuing a STEM career.

Thomas’ Girls IMPACT program exposed the girls to careers in fields they may not have considered otherwise. In her application, Thomas noted the lack of female representation in STEM. Her hope was that this project would encourage students to recognize that no opportunity is off limits to them.

The DSP staff is proud of the work Dr. Fisher and Dr. Thomas have done to prepare a next generation of potential scholars. The mission of the Doctoral Scholars Program is to increase the number of minority professors in the university and college classroom. Service grants help graduates to reach back and potentially expand the future Ph.D. pipeline.