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Spelman College Receives Funding from the Sloan Foundation to Help Fuel the Field of Black Women Economists Share a Spelman College Press Release

For Immediate Release

Jazmyn Burton
Assistant Director of News & Communications 
Spelman College
Twitter: @SpelmanMedia

Sloan Foundation logoATLANTA (August 21, 2019) Through the support of a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a not-for-profit grant-making institution dedicated to the advancement of scientific knowledge, the Department of Economics at Spelman College will develop curriculum and programming to address the scarcity of Black women Ph.D.s in economics.

Nationwide, there are very few African Americans in economics professions, and fewer than 10 percent of underrepresented minorities are awarded advanced degrees in the discipline, said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman and a member of the Sloan Foundation board of trustees.

“Economists and economic theory impact virtually every aspect of policy making in this country. Policies that shape finance, labor, education, public health, the criminal justice system are deeply influenced by economists and their research. Yet, the number of African Americans with Ph.D.s in economics has been declining for several decades,” Dr. Campbell said. “This groundbreaking grant from the Sloan Foundation seeks to reverse this trend by building on Spelman College’s strong mathematics and economics departments in a way that encourages more students to choose an academic path that leads to graduate studies, a Ph.D. in economics and a voice at important policy making decisions.”

In addition, the College will utilize the Sloan Foundation award to develop learning modules focused on economics for its annual summer bridge program and launch an initiative that provides financial support to students with an interest in economics graduate programs.

In order to give students real-world examples of careers in economics, the grant will fund the creation of a new distinguished speaker series that focuses on alumnae, and other women of color, who hold doctoral degrees in economics. The series will be open to students enrolled in various degree programs across the College.

“Adapting the Women in STEM Summer Program model for economics and bringing together other activities and experiences will afford Spelman students with portfolios enabling them to attain graduate degrees and become in-demand professionals in the field,” said Elizabeth S. Boylan, Ph.D., program director for the Sloan Foundation.

Marionette Holmes Spelman CollegeWhen compared to business, social science, STEM, and humanities, the field of economics continues to lag in representation, with little to no improvement indicated over time, said Marionette Holmes, Ph.D., C’90, associate professor and chair of the economics department at Spelman.

There are several factors that led to the low number of African American students enrolled in economic degree programs. Some students are intimidated by the high-level math classes needed to excel in the discipline, and there’s a perception that economics is a dry subject.

“I decided early on to pursue economics as a career,” said Dr. Holmes. “When I attended Spelman my father, who was a political science professor, suggested that if I really wanted to influence the landscape for African-Americans I should go into economics. He saw economics as a way to effect policy and make both a cultural and global impact.”

About Spelman College 
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News and World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 51 among all liberal arts colleges and No. 1 among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit

About The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grant making institution based in New York City. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-President and Chief Executive Officer of the General Motors Corporation, the Foundation makes grants in three broad areas: direct support of research in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics; initiatives to increase the quality and diversity of scientific institutions; and efforts to enhance and deepen public engagement with science and scientists.


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