Research In Action

Research In Action

Connecting with STEM Students at HBCUs
December 23, 2019

There are many things I like about being the Training Program Manager at CIRP and two of them concern our summer program. The first is working with young people, and the second is connecting with faculty and students while conducting outreach for the program. Over the last few years I've focused my outreach efforts on Historically Black Universities and Colleges (HBCUs).

Young people bring energy, fresh perspective, and an excitement for learning that is truly inspiring. Since 2011 I’ve had the pleasure of working with many of them through our Injury Science Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The program's primary goal is to give underrepresented students research opportunities to bring diversity to the world of STEM with the hope that students will continue careers in research and become the next generation of injury scientists.

REU students are immersed in an intensive 10-week summer internship where they receive one-on-one mentoring from leading pediatric injury researchers in the country. Aside from receiving free housing for most of the summer in West Philly, one of Philadelphia's most vibrant neighborhoods, REU students are given a stipend, reimbursements for travel, and opportunities to present their work.

We strive to provide students with an abundant learning experience and many ways to flourish. They are integrated as full members of our research teams and participate in a wide array of seminars, workshops, and field trips. To learn about their experiences, check out their REU Alumni Stories here.

Visiting HBCUs

I have visited faculty and students at colleges near and far. From Pennsylvania and Delaware to Maryland and Virginia, I’ve focused my outreach efforts on HBCUs. If you are not familiar with their history, the earliest HBCUs were founded by the nation’s black churches. According to the National Museum of African American Culture website, a U.S. statute enacted in 1890 required former confederate states, in particular, to provide land-grants to institutions for black students if admission was not allowed elsewhere and “opened the door of educational opportunity for many African Americans who were once legally denied an education”.

This year I had the great fortune to travel to Atlanta to visit Spelman College, where many esteemed women graduated, including Marian Wright Edelman, founder of The Children’s Defense Fund; to Morehouse College, where Martin Luther King, Jr. graduated; and to Clark Atlanta University, where Louis T. Wright, surgeon, and civil rights activist was an alumn.  

It was a great trip, I met a lot of interested students, and expanded my network of contacts with faculty and staff. I even got to re-connect with Maya Thirkill, a recent REU alumna now a senior Psychology major at Spelman. She did an amazing job during her internship and was honored to be chosen by her 2019 REU classmates to present at the 2019 National REU Symposium sponsored by NSF. In turn, I was privileged to have Maya join me to share her REU experience with her Spelman classmates.