The University of Tennessee Knoxville's (UTK) Program for Excellence and Equity in Research (PEER), a proposed Initiatives for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD) program in the MORE Division, through UTK's partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the partnership's UTK/ORNL Graduate School for Genome Science and Technology (GST), proffers underrepresented minority (URM) Scholars the opportunity to train in an unprecedented atmosphere of scientific excellence, engage in team-science fostered through the UTK-ORNL partnership, gain crucial 21st century professional skills, and be mentored by world class scientists, all within a supportive community created by and for the Scholars. Peer's goal is to leverage these attributes to create a "program of excellence" that will produce from PEER, the GST, and across the university, an increased number of accomplished, competitive and determined URM Ph.D.s who attain careers in biomedical research characterized by significant contributions to their fields, and thus contribute to our nation's health and well being. To accomplish this goal, PEER has the following specific aims: 1) increase URM Ph.D.s graduating from GST by at least 8 students/year with at least 90% completing Ph.D.s, ideally in 5 years;2) increase overall number of URMs obtaining Ph.D.s in STEM research fields at UTK;and 3) develop a program that ensures excellence and sustains desire essential for career success.
The aims will be achieved by enrolling PEER students in GST and overlaying that experience with a robust PEER Basic Ph.D. Plan, that offers, through specially designed initiatives: 1) team-building and collaborative endeavors;2) relevant and challenging academic enrichment;3) broad professional development that acknowledges URM issues and universal needs;and 4) a support system that provides honest critiques, close mentoring, a balanced perspective on the profession, and tools to persevere and enjoy life as a scientist. Basic Plan initiatives include a comprehensive PEER Orientation, activities that create and support a Community of Scholars, enhanced courses and academic initiatives, close mentoring, and a series of professional development workshops. In addition to the PEER Basic Ph.D. plan, Scholars will receive custom support through a PEER Specialized Ph.D. Plan, which will ensure they achieve excellence that will ensure their career goals are met. Achievement of PEER Milestones will provide evidence of progress toward Peer's goal. These include quantitative measures of performance (e.g., number of quality first-author publications, being awarded a pre-doctoral fellowship, time-to-degree) as well as qualitative measures of leadership, communication, collaboration, and importantly, desire for research career.
Our nation's quiet crisis is due in large part to the fact that underrepresented minorities (URMs) are profoundly underrepresented in the science professions, and thus do not have an equal voice in venues where health and human welfare policy is determined and world-class biomedical/behavioral research is conducted. This, in turn, contributes to health disparities and other more subtle inequities for our nation's underserved. To address this crisis, the University of Tennessee Knoxville's (UTK) Program for Excellence and Equity in Research (PEER), a proposed IMSD program in the MORE Division, will be a program of excellence that will produce from PEER, UTK's Graduate School of Genome Science and Technology, and the university at large, an increased number of accomplished, competitive and determined URM Ph.D.s who attain careers in biomedical research characterized by significant contributions to their fields, take their place at the tables where the nation's science policy and research agendas are determined, and contribute to our nation's health and well-being.
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