President's message

Ronald J. Daniels, president

Image caption: Ronald J. Daniels

Now is a time to make bold decisions and take bold actions.

I shared this message with the Johns Hopkins graduating Class of 2021 at our Commencement ceremony in May. The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the enduring fissures and challenges plaguing our nation, from political polarization to persistent racial and economic disparities. But such moments of disruption also present opportunities for ambitious reforms that will make our world better, and more equitable, for all people.

It wouldn't be right for me to call upon our students to act boldly if their university wasn't also willing to. This spring, we were able to do so in an area of particular significance for the future of our universities and our nation: expanding pathways to PhD education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields for students from historically marginalized backgrounds.

For decades, reports have noted the persistent lack of diversity in graduate-­level STEM programs, yet progress has been scant. For example, from 2000 to 2016, the share of PhDs in science and engineering earned by underrepresented minority scholars only increased from 6% to 8.8%.

To help address these inequities, Johns Hopkins launched the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative, a $150 million effort supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies that will dramatically expand and diversify our PhD programs across engineering, mathematics, and science. We are privileged to be able to name this initiative after a true Hopkins luminary: Vivien Thomas, a Black surgical laboratory supervisor who developed a pioneering surgical technique to treat "blue baby syndrome" at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1940s—a lifesaving advance for which he did not receive credit for decades.

The initiative will create approximately 100 new positions in JHU's STEM PhD programs in perpetuity for graduates of historically Black colleges and universities as well as other minority-serving institutions. The Vivien Thomas Scholars will have full funding for up to six years per scholar, along with a host of additional supports. We will also be establishing new and enduring partnerships with HBCUs and MSIs to help build on these institutions' exceptional records of nurturing talented students in STEM-related fields. Our hope is that this new program will seed the ground for a more diverse STEM faculty across the country, as well as a more competitive research ecosystem. I encourage you to read more about this important initiative, and how it came to be, later in this issue.

In the early days of the pandemic, I wrote to our community that I believed we would not simply endure its challenges but emerge a stronger and more equitable institution. This initiative is a testament to that commitment and to the possibilities that lie ahead as we continue to welcome to and support through Johns Hopkins the best and brightest young scholars.

Signed, Ronald J. Daniels

Ronald J. Daniels