The State of California has approved $5 million in funding for the Cal-Bridge program which provides a pathway for underrepresented students in Community Colleges and the California State University system to pursue advanced Ph.D. degrees through the University of California   system and join the California science and technology workforce, including as public university faculty.

The Cal-Bridge program, launched in 2014, is a statewide partnership between 9 UC, 23 CSU, and 116 community colleges across California supporting undergraduate CSU students majoring in physics, computer science, and mathematics to matriculate into PhD programs across the state and nation. The new California state budget allocation will enable Cal-Bridge to expand the subject areas covered and extend its impact, supporting Cal-Bridge scholars all the way from their CSU undergraduate studies through their UC PhDs, thereby building a pathway for thousands of California students from diverse backgrounds to achieve the expertise needed to fill university faculty and technology leadership positions in California and beyond.

“Diversifying the professoriate will lead to a growth in gender, racial, and ethnic representation in the technology workforce more broadly by increasing the number of students from historically underrepresented groups completing degrees in STEM fields because they see faculty that look like them,” said Cal-Bridge Executive Director Alexander Rudolph, professor of physics and astronomy at Cal Poly Pomona. “As countries around the world are increasing their investment in science and technology, making sure our nation uses all of the available talent in developing our expertise and capabilities in these fields is an issue of economic and national security.”

Maria “Katy” Rodriguez Wimberly is a striking example of the power of the Cal-Bridge approach. An Army veteran, Wimberly took classes at the community college level before transferring to California State University, Long Beach where she joined the Cal-Bridge program in 2015. Wimberly graduated with a B.S. degree in physics from Long Beach and went on to earn a PhD in astrophysics at UC Irvine in 2021. She is now an NSF MPS-Ascend postdoctoral fellow in astrophysics at UC Riverside.

Commenting on how the Cal-Bridge program provided the support she needed for success, Wimberly said, “The network of mentors and peers Cal-Bridge has helped me create has been invaluable in my pursuit of an astrophysics Ph.D.! I now have an incredible support system of similarly underrepresented astro grad students and mentors who actively work to build a more inclusive community.”

Kevork Abazajian, professor of physics & astronomy, is the Cal-Bridge UC-South director and runs the program at UCI.

About Cal-Bridge: The Cal-Bridge program has the mission to create a comprehensive, end-to-end pathway for undergraduates from the diverse student population of the CSU system through graduate school to a PhD, postdoctoral fellowship, and ultimately membership in the professoriate and science and technology workforce. Students in the program are referred to as Cal-Bridge scholars.

The program is a partnership between 9 University of California, all 23 California State University and the 116 community college campuses in the state, thus fulfilling the promise of cross-segmental cooperation envisioned in the California Master Plan for Higher Education. Scholars are recruited from CSU and community college campuses across the state, with the help of local faculty and/or staff liaisons at each campus. Community college students transfer to a participating CSU to join the program.