Billionaire philanthropist and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated $150 million to Johns Hopkins University to address the underrepresentation of certain minorities in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
The donation was announced Tuesday and will endow the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative, which is named for the renowned Black scientist who developed a cardiac surgery technique at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1940s, according to the university’s Office of the Provost.
The initiative will fund about 100 new slots across the university’s more than 30 STEM programs for diverse Ph.D. students. The funds also will help build a path for students from historically Black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions to pursue doctoral degrees in STEM fields.
Partner institutions include Morgan State University and University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
The initiative will provide each scholar with academic and financial support, including up to six years of full tuition, a stipend, health insurance and travel funding, along with mentorship, research, professional development and community-building opportunities, according to the university.
About 11% of students enrolled in the university’s eligible doctoral programs are Black or Latino, both of which are considered historically underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, university President Ron Daniels said.
“Obviously this program alone will not solve all of these problems, but it’s one more moment in which you’re developing examples, points of inspiration that will allow others to carry forward and contribute to diversity,” Daniels said.
The initiative was partially inspired by the success of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at UMBC, which was launched in 1988 and has graduated hundreds of mostly Black students in science and engineering fields. Hopkins directly benefited from the program since a number of Meyerhoff graduates eventually sought doctorates at the university, Daniels said.
Hopkins officials also were inspired by the experience of boosting undergraduate diversity using Bloomberg’s previous donation of $1.8 billion in scholarship money in 2018. The donation was the largest gift to any academic institution in U.S. history. Bloomberg has now given about $3 billion to the Baltimore school, whose School of Public Health bears his name..
“What this really reflects is an understanding that you have to take a systems-based approach to thinking about the persistent challenges to enrolling underrepresented minorities in STEM-based programs,” Daniels said.
The university is planning to welcome its first cohort of Ph.D. students in the Thomas Scholars Initiative in the fall of 2022.