Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


Welcome to the Group for Underrepresented Students in Humanities Education and Research (GUSHER). We are a consortium of summer research institutes dedicated to enhancing the recruitment, retention, and success of students from underrepresented groups in graduate study in the humanities.

GUSHER, now based at the University of Delaware, was established in October 2008 by the Association of Departments of English and Association of Departments of Foreign Languages. It is a professional support network for the directors of summer bridge programs in the humanities, which now include:


According to the Survey of Earned Doctorates, 88.9 percent of the doctorates in English awarded between 1973 and 2005 went to white recipients. Only 3.3 percent went to black, non-Hispanic recipients, 2.3 percent to Hispanic recipients, 5.0 percent to Asians, and 0.3 percent to American Indians1. While Asian and American Indian doctoral recipients are within one percentage point or so of their representation in the U.S. population (about 4.9 and 1.4 percent, respectively), the percentage of Ph.D. recipients in English among African-American and Latino populations in the U.S. is much lower than those groups’ representation in the U.S. population, which is approximately 13 and 15 percent currently2.

ADE's Ad Hoc Committee on the Status of African American Faculty Members began a study of the situation of African American students and faculty members in 2005-6 as a first step toward addressing racial diversity more broadly. When the committee began to explore the reasons for the disproportionately low numbers of African American students who go on to become faculty members in English departments, it found that African American job candidates do get tenure-track jobs: two-thirds find a tenure-track position the year that they complete the Ph.D.3.

Of concern, however, are two key “pipeline” issues: getting enough African American students into doctoral programs and then getting them through those programs. The committee discovered through its research that even departments that produce a good number of African American Ph.D.s are not necessarily successful in motivating their own African American undergraduate majors to pursue Ph.D.s. The sciences and math confronted a similar problem years ago directly by establishing summer programs for their majors, but individual disciplines in the humanities had not generally done so.

As the first of these programs began to develop, it became apparent that a network of these programs was necessary, both to help streamline established programs and to provide valuable advice to new programs. Doug Steward, Associate Director of the ADE, and David Goldberg, his counterpart at the ADFL, proposed a meeting for programs aimed at increasing diversity in all humanities fields--and GUSHER was born. They identified and included five programs, and they invited representatives from each to GUSHER’s first meeting, hosted by ADE, ADFL, and MLA in October 2008. The programs included were SILCS; The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Moore Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (MURAP); the Schomburg-Mellon Humanities Summer Institute; the Program for Humanities Development (PHD), at The Ohio State University; and the University of Delaware’s Arts and Humanities Summer Institute (AHSI).

Humanities disciplines are taking responsibility for working nationally on increasing the number of students of color in the pipeline to the Ph.D. The GUSHER programs are already sharing resources and strategies. In their October 2008 meeting, the directors of the programs exchanged syllabi and program schedules, budgets and best practices. The October 2009 meeting, sponsored by the University of Delaware, welcomed new humanities institutes to GUSHER and featured even more productive resource-sharing. As we learn of even more diversity institutes in the humanities, we hope that GUSHER can become a clearinghouse of information, ideas, and, perhaps most importantly, dissemination.

The programs in GUSHER are developing practices that are successful in encouraging and preparing students for graduate study in the humanities, and we want to spread the word about those practices to undergraduate departments across the country. If doctoral programs are serious about wanting to recruit students of color, first-generation college students, and students who bring new perspectives to these departments and the profession, then they will want to adopt many of the practices of these diversity institutes. This new organizing effort will be, we hope, only the beginning of a brighter future for diversity efforts in the humanities – a future in which, perhaps, such diversity programs will have introduced their own good strategies to English and Foreign Language programs all over the country and thus will have made themselves obsolete.

1. “Table Builder.” WebCASPAR: Integrated Science and Engineering Resources Data Analysis System. Natl. Science Foundation. 30 Jan. 2008
2. ACS Demographic and Housing Estimates: 2006. United States Census Bureau. 30 Jan. 2008. Path: American Community Survey; Data Profiles; Show Result.
3. Steward, Doug. “Placement Outcomes for Modern Language Ph.D.s: Findings from the MLA’s 2003–04 Survey of Ph.D. Placement.” ADE Bulletin 141-142 (2007): 75–102.

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