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Leon Henkins Brief History of PDP

In 1964 the Academic Senate at Berkeley created a committee to find ways of increasing the number of students from disadvantaged groups in our population who come to study at UCB. The newly formed committee was authorized to conduct annual fund- raising campaigns among the faculty and staff. On the recommendation of then-President Clark Kerr, the Regents voted to match such individual contributions on a 5-to-1 basis. The committee was called the Special Scholarships Committee (SSC) because its initial program involved working with high-school students who were guaranteed a “Special Opportunity Scholarship” if they successfully completed three summers of study organized by UC, and then entered a California institution of higher education (whether UC or other). The motion to establish the SSC was made by Mathematics Professor Leon Henkin, who has served on SSC ever since its founding.


That initial program of SSC served as a model for the federal Upward Bound Program which was founded a year or two later, and with which the UC program then became affiliated. During the 10-year period 1964-74 the SSC operated a variety of programs, in addition to Upward Bound, designed to increase the number of incoming minority freshman at UCB by working with pre-college students, and in addition it operated a campus center for minority undergraduates designed to increase their academic success by tutorial help, financial aid, and counseling. Over the years since SSC was founded other funding sources came and went; the monetary contribution of the Regents disappeared, but was replaced by support from the Chancellor, reaching a level of 4 full-time staff positions, and then declining. The SSC has continued its annual campaign for individual contributions from faculty and staff, which achieved a total of more than $45,000 in 1995.


In 1974 SSC commissioned a survey of the students it had brought into Cal during the preceding decade. Their persistence and graduation rates were about the same as the general student population, but their GPA scores were in the lower half, and they tended to cluster in a few traditional majors. As a result of these findings SSC transferred Upward Bound and related programs to the campus Administration, and created the Professional Development Program (PDP) to engage the faculty in a long-term effort to increase minority participation in those professions requiring advanced graduate education. From the beginning PDP has put more than 95% of its efforts into work with students aiming at careers in math, science, engineering, and other math-related fields. In establishing PDP, the aim was to produce professionals in math-related fields whose achievements would become widely known, inspiring youngsters in the minority communities from which they came to head for similar careers. Early in PDP operations, however, it was found that first-year calculus courses were derailing many minority students who wanted to major in math, science, or engineering.


Similar problems were experienced nationwide, and programs designed to overcome them were failing uniformly. PDP staff member Uri Treisman developed new ways of understanding the roots of these problems, and new ways of overcoming them. These involved the creation of workshops which substituted a regimen of hard problems for remediation, developed group cohesion focused on math achievement, and blended understanding of University process with the learning of mathematics. In 1978 a 3-year FIPSE (Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education) grant from the U.S. Department of Education supported a substantial enlargement of the program, and a 2-year extension led PDP to experiment with workshops in chemistry and physics.


An Advisory Board drawn from corporate and foundation leaders helped to raise funds which gave minority students a chance to bring their developing math/science skills and knowledge into appropriate summer jobs. Among the sources of this support were Kaiser Aluminum, Clorox, PG&E, Mervyn’s, Chevron, and Varian corporations, as well as the Hewlett Packard Foundation and the San Francisco Foundation. Unfortunately, when the national financial picture changed, this support declined and then disappeared entirely during 1981-85.


The Ford Foundation, taking note of PDP accomplishments, brought national attention to the workshops by organizing groups of educators at Eastern universities to visit Berkeley and observe the operation. Meanwhile, informal channels of communication led several West Coast universities to develop PDP-like programs of their own, with the aid of advice and visits by Treisman. These dissemination efforts received a notable boost in 1987, when Treisman received an award of $50,000 from the Charles A. Dana Foundation for outstanding contributions to higher education. The foundation then established a Dana Center at Berkeley with a 5-year grant of more than $1,000,000 to spread the ideas developed at PDP and help adapt them to a variety of circumstances at different institutions.


Just as everyone was ready to adopt the format of the PDP workshops, Treisman decided that it was time to change. Taking note of the fact that the number of African Americans and Hispanic Americans were becoming a much larger fraction of the UCB undergraduates, he saw that it was time to start a process of institutionalization of the modes of instruction that PDP had devised to produce its successful calculus students. Instead of employing these methods in workshops that were parallel to the TA-led sections of the Math Department courses, with workshops led by PDP staff members paid from outside funds, we would try to bring the methods into the TA-led sections themselves. The benefits that had been devised especially for minority students should become available to all students willing to do the work.


As a vehicle for the suggested process of institutionalization, Treisman proposed “intensive sections” which met for 5 hours a week instead of the traditional 2. To begin with, just a few such sections would be established; the TAs for them would be selected from among volunteers, and would be given special training by PDP staffers who had had workshop experience. Funds were secured to cover the extra cost involved in launching this effort. Treisman himself took a leading role in conducting weekly meetings of the PDP staffers and the intensive-section TAs to review progress and problems. However, the promise of that start has not been fully realized. Treisman, who obtained his Ph.D. in 1985 (with a dissertation on the PDP workshops) was lured away from Berkeley by an offer in 1992 of a professorship in the Math Department at University of Texas, Austin. Financing of all UC programs was put under great pressure by the falling state budget (which reduced the size of the Math Department from 71 to 49 during the period 1991-95). Despite these handicaps, the PDP staff, led by Associate Director Lana Fukasawa, has kept the program’s performance at a high level, and has been able to achieve some of the original goals. As we start 1996-97, a new Math Department Chair is instituting revisions in the traditional format for Math 1A - 1B, and PDP is taking a new look at how to make the intensive sections more successful. (PDP TA Reference Handbook, 8-23-96)