Dr. Kevian Strassun, a Mexican-American astronomy professor at Vanderbilt University, created the Vanderbilt-Fisk Bridge Program, a partnership between the two institutions to facilitate more minority PhDs. Since it’s inception in 2004, the program has helped 51 minority students garner PhDs.

According to NBC, the average number of minority PhD graduates nationwide has been one PhD every nine years in materials science and one every 11 years in astronomy. The Fisk-Vanderbilt program is now graduating two minority graduates in physics each year and one minority Ph.D. in astronomy each year, which is 10 times the national average for physics and astronomy PhD programs in the nation.

The program allows students to get Master’s degrees at Fisk, a historically Black university, and then pursue their doctorates at Vanderbilt. Strassun says, “At a time when America needs to maintain its global competitive edge the nation is underutilizing incredible talent and human resources represented in nearly a third of the population.”