The proposed MARC Scholars Program seeks to dramatically increase retention, academic performance, degree attainment, and graduate school matriculation rates among underrepresented STEM minority students at the University of West Florida (UWF). The program is modeled after UWF's "Chemistry Scholars Program," an inclusion program modeled after the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at UMBC that is designed to support high-potential UR students who start college with an interest in STEM. After two short years Chem Scholars has already made a profound impact, with 4 UR students matriculating to PhD and MD-PhD programs. Known at UWF as a model department, the Chemistry Department has a 95% acceptance rate among all students applying for graduate programs. With NIH support, we now propose to evolve Chem Scholars into a broader "Science Scholars Program" that encompasses the Chemistry, Biology and Physics departments. Currently, 64 MARC eligible UR students majoring in one of these three programs are enrolled at UWF. The proposed program has four major components: 1) integration both academically and socially through the Science Scholars Program, which will also serve as a means for recruitment;2) a rigorous academic preparedness program with the addition of a Research-Intensive Honors Degree piloted by Chemistry and research experiences both at UWF and R-1 institutions;3) a support system implemented through Science Scholars, MARC Scholars, "intrusive advising" and regulated advising for both academic coursework, research and MARC Scholars, and 4) the creation of a formal tracking system through Institutional Research. With 76% of the UWF undergraduate population qualifying for federal financial aid, 30% classified as underrepresented according to the NIH guidelines, and 60% of all UR STEM majors having declared a major in one of these three departments, the proposed UWF MARC Scholars Program will uniquely serve a large population of UR students and should have a significant positive impact on institutional and regional climate.
Health concerns of the 21st century necessitate collaborative research efforts of an intelligent and skilled workforce. A workforce capable of meeting these challenges and providing viable solutions must be diverse. The diversity of professional research scientists can only result when all intelligent students are given the opportunity to ascertain their potential.