Our goals are to increase transfer/graduation rates and academic success of underrepresented (UR) Biology students, and ultimately, diversity in the biomedical/ behavioral sciences. Our strategy is to initiate instructor-driven changes in Biology education and curriculum, and encourage system-wide changes through dissemination of successful evidence-based modifications. Formative assessment of each component will guide improvements over the course of the program. An annual summative evaluation will guide future changes in curriculum, transfer and articulation agreements. Advising at the partner institutions will be improved. TNCC will hold an annual "Healthy Choices &Health Careers Festival" that will provide on-site career counseling. New "go to" advising/coaching positions for STEM-H and Biology transfer students will be created and institutionalized with matching funds at each institution. VCU Advising websites for transfer students will be enhanced to provide essential information to allow for more individualized one-on-one and small group advising/ coaching sessions. New courses will be developed collaboratively by "course builders" from each partner institution: 1) A progressive biology skills course to promote proficiency in basic laboratory, quantitative, critical thinking, and study skills, and 2) An economically sustainable molecular group-inquiry course. Academic success of students in subsequent biocore courses will be assessed to guide the inclusion of these courses in an integrated Virginia Community College -VCU Biology curriculum. Selected UR students from TNCC and smaller community colleges will participate in a 2-year graduated summer research experience with additional activities during the academic year to promote engagement and cohort cohesiveness. Year 1 will include a Biology Boot Camp, Responsible Conduct in Research Training, Research Communication Skills Workshop, and Research Internship, with subsequent attendance at the annual meeting of the Virginia Academy of Sciences. Year 2 includes a Mentored Research Project and Career Development Workshop, that culminates with a presentation at the ABRCMS or other approved regional/ national meeting with research mentors. Transfer/graduation rates and academic success of participants will be tracked over time. This project leverages NIH-funded research training programs for UR students in the Center on Health Disparities at VCU.
The proposed project addresses disparities in quality of education, career counseling, advising, and early research opportunities for students from underrepresented groups who begin their secondary education at community colleges and are interested in the biomedical/behavioral sciences.